facebook
CRAFT YOUR JOURNEY

Monuments of Minimalism

A naked sepia edifice stares down at the fickle traffic. An architect reminiscences the story of a city’s birth. The touch of raw concrete under a neem's canopy soothes the tired feet. Along the austere corridors of an institution, the murmuring of students gently echo. Ornate curves and arches give way to brute geometry. A game of sunlight and shade persists.

India, a newly formed nation seeking to forge a singular identity from the many, found an interesting refuge in modern architecture. This journey explores India’s tryst with the architectural styles of the 20th century starting with the Mughal stronghold of Delhi, where two eras of power, different in time and essence, stand together solemnly. It then heads through the defined lanes of Chandigarh, an anomaly of measured grids in the sprawling lines of an Indian map. From there, the trail enters the old city of Ahmedabad, a centre whose flourishes are greatly expressed in the confluence of different styles found in its quaint lanes. The path comes to rest at the metropolitan of Mumbai, a city - of tightly packed chawls, elaborate bungalows, plush cars and crowded trains - for all.

A longstanding seat of power, Delhi has borne witness to the rise and fall of many dynasties, evident in the many monuments that lay hidden in the urban agglomeration. In buildings like the India International Centre and the Palika Kendra, the city saw bold experiments by Allen Stein, Kuldip Singh, Habib Rahman and the likes who vowed to provide it with the identity that represented the nation’s vision.

Testimony to a beginning, Chandigarh was a planned city among cities that seem to have grown organically with varied architectural influences at different points. The magnum opus of Le Corbusier, the city was modelled after the human body with sectors being divided and designed based on their functionality.

Ahmedabad is a ground that exhibits proudly, its longstanding romance with architecture. Louis Kahn, Charles Correa and B. V. Doshi explored blending the ideas of functionality and traditions of building with locally available materials. In its exposed brick structures and experimental buildings like Amdavad Ni Gufa, one finds the modern architectural oeuvre attain a full circle.

Considered to be the first modern cosmopolitan of India, Mumbai is the perfect representation of urbanity. A city of dreams that evolved under the colonial rule, it is the city where the irregular chaos that is characteristic of India and the symmetry of modernity come together to form a unique rhythm which the city’s many lives jive to.

In the Land of Palaces and Kings

The many lives of India seem to converge at its capital, giving it a subtle, often overwhelming identity born of this mix. Delhi, in its museums, forts, old market spaces, and modern art centres, seems to straddle the many different periods passed in history and those to be held in the future. In the desert lands of Thar, the bustling cities seem to have risen from the shifting dunes, carefully preserving and flaunting their rich heritage and ways of life.

The journey begins in the capital of India, Delhi, from where it moves to Udaipur, the idyllic city of the moonlit lakes. The path then leads to the blue city of Jodhpur and then makes its way to the city of opulence, Jaipur. The journey comes to a rest in the forgotten city of Fatehpur Sikri, hidden amidst the present day Agra, an exemplary reminder of Mughal glory. 

A city of multiple identities, Delhi has seen empires rise and fall over centuries. Walk through the narrow streets of the old city to witness customs long forgotten in its charming bazaars and ancient houses. Marvel at the splendid architecture built by various conquerors, or dig into some delicious Mughlai cuisine. Delhi holds a place for everyone and offers something new with every journey. 

Known as the City of Lakes, Udaipur seems to be taken right out of a fairy tale. With the undulating Aravalli hills as a backdrop, the charming palaces decorate the many lakes with their reflection. Mewar architecture gives Udaipur a distinct aesthetic, seen most impressively aboard a boat looking toward the east bank where a series of glorious palaces stand.

The city of Jodhpur is immortalised in time in varying hues of blue amid a sea of golden sand. Overlooked by a massive fort perched atop a hill, the city holds in it long traditions of crafts and folk art. Visit the imposing Mehrangarh Fort, or take a stroll through the old markets where you will find craftsmen making lac bangles in one and the strong whiff of spices in another.

Jaipur is a celebration of all things royal and glorious, represented in its exuberant forts and palaces. Admire the exquisite blend of Rajput and Islamic architecture in the Amber Fort and Palace. Walk through the lively markets of the old city taking in the monochromatic walls and savouring local dishes along the way.

The city of Agra, in the midst of modernisation, preserves its magnificent past in iconic mausoleums, elaborate forts, and narrow old-city lanes. Early morning, observe the colours change on the white marble façade of the Taj Mahal. Retrace your steps in history as you walk in the compounds of the Agra Fort and examine the exquisite work of marble inlay in a Persian nobleman’s tomb. End your journey in this magnificent city before heading back to Delhi.

Into the Dravidian Heartland

India’s deep south is a flourishing heartland of a culture where ancient traditions meet modernity in a traveller’s paradise. This journey takes you into the land of exquisitely carved temples and quaint colonial towns. A land of coastal beauty flanked by backwaters and beaches, the South can be dramatic and serene at the same time.

This journey starts at Chennai, the cultural hub of Tamil Nadu before moving on to the temple city of Mahabalipuram on the eastern coast and trails the sandy beaches of the erstwhile French settlement of Pondicherry, spreading across the mainland into Thanjavur and Madurai, draining the Periyar basin in the forests of Thekkady. From here it emerges in the rustic backwaters of Alleppey before finally ending at the western coast, at the new port town of Cochin.  

The fourth largest metropolitan in the country, Chennai offers a glimpse into the intricate weaving of India's cultural past. The imposing stone temples, artefacts from a colonial-era intertwined with the recent burst of modernity, Chennai is a world of its own. Visitors are offered a range of activities to pursue, from history and culture to the mouthwatering cuisine of the South.

From a bustling city, you move to the serene shores of Mahabalipuram. Surrounded by two beautiful lakes, the small strip of Mahabalipuram is home to some of the oldest architectural marvels in India. The famous Shore Temple overlooking the Bay of Bengal, with its large granite stone architecture perfectly encapsulates its essence. A huge monolithic rock, famously called the Krishna’s Butterball, hangs miraculously on a slope just so and has survived earthquakes through the ages.

The journey continues southwards and into Pondicherry, a city caught in a time-warp, which tells the tale of French influence and Tamil sensibilities. Walking through the cobbled streets, the romance of the old French town comes alive with sprightly shades of yellow on its chic buildings and colonial churches. Merchants sell country-made glass bangles in front of chic designer boutiques and the pleasures of coconut-based cuisine can be had in cafes with sophisticated French names.

The city of Thanjavur, south of Pondicherry, gleams with one of the oldest temples in the county. Once the cultural seat of the Chola empire, its splendour is visible in the many majestic temples in and around town. The epitome of the Dravidian style of architecture, the Bhrihadeeswara temple is situated in the heart of the city with a wealth of art, painting, sculpting.

The journey moves towards the mainland, and into the city of Madurai. The prime centre of Tamil culture, literature, art, music, and dance, Madurai has flourished through the centuries and has preserved its tradition of celebrating culture through the confluence of poets and artists, even today. The Meenakshi temple with its towering gopurams, sculpted brightly from stories of the past, stands tall in the proud blue sky.

In the Periyar basin, the deep jungles of Thekkady are home to a variety of species of indigenous flora and fauna including the mighty Indian tiger, elephants, deer, and langur to name a few. The Periyar National Park has sounds of local birds and gurgles of streams which can be explored by walks, treks, and the cradling bamboo rafts on the river.

Trail through thick forests to the pristine backwaters of Kerala in the little town of Alleppey. The lush and graceful backwaters of Alappuzha, anglicised as ‘Alleppey’, provide a rare respite from the bustle of cities. Cruise through the backwaters in the unique houseboats, or visit the temple by the lake known for its beautiful architecture. Unwind on the untouched beaches of the town before continuing to the busy city of Cochin.

The journey concludes at the western coast of India at the port town of Cochin. Popular for Dutch and Jewish influences, Cochin is the land of spices and Chinese fishing nets. Home to Kerala’s fabled backwaters, the roots of history run even deeper in Cochin to support the skyscrapers of modernity, much like the tallest of coconut palms that tirelessly line the coastal city.   

A Wondrous Moonland

An audible gasp escapes, out of awe or of oxygen, one shall never know. Whisps of clouds brush against quaint buildings that peek from amidst the undulating passes. From the silent corridors of a Buddhist monastery, a mild hum of chants echo across the icy white mountain folds. The warmth of salty butter chai soothes from the inside as a gust of cold breeze passes by. An olden tribe walk with solemn yaks and flock of sheep across the arid white land. Stars illuminate the dark expanse, lingering almost within one’s reach.

A land of varying landscapes, from white sands to blue lakes, snow-capped mountains to lush valleys, Ladakh, like a dream captured in a snow globe, is a wildly beautiful milieu set between the Kunlun Mountains and the Himalayas. Fly into the capital city of Delhi, where the confluence of old and new has produced some marvellous architecture, delectable cuisine, and more significantly, timeless stories. From here, travel to the lofty terrains of the Himalaya through the town of Leh.

The elevated magical landscapes of Leh, the city in the sky, is the gateway to the surrounding Ladakh region. This cold, arid, and remote region has enchanted travellers with its sheer rugged beauty. As a result of lying directly in Tibet's sphere of influence, Tibetan Buddhism and its unique philosophy have thrived here for centuries. Most of Ladakh outside of Leh is either very sparsely populated or is just a seemingly endless expanse of lofty mountains and valleys with the occasional monastery.

In these distant arid lands, the cultural vibrancy of its people has survived the harshness of their surroundings. Explore the several secluded monasteries that dot the spectacular landscape which stand out like jewels amid the cold desert. Drive, hike and walk to some of the abbeys and monasteries in Uletokpo and other remote hamlets and settlements; meet with the locals, the abbots, the lamas and the students of the monasteries, letting the barren expanse of Ladakh charm them with its unspoiled allure.

Amidst the snow-capped peaks and lush green fields lies the emerald blue Tso Moriri, untouched by modernity. Barley fields, rare birds, and charming white houses characterise this area inhabited by a nomadic community.

While in the mountains, there is a cycling tour for sightings of one of the loftiest mountain passes in the Himalayas. The locals eat hearty meals by gushing rivulets and walk into the enchanted old city. Ladakh offers bird watching experiences around River Indus and local people love to invite travellers to share a meal with them at their home.

Where Desert Meets the Sea

The crusty plateau softens at the edge of the Arabian sea, the undulating Western Ghats brace the gusting winds. The first showers awaken the tropical birds. Skyscrapers and metropolitan roads fade away into a golden flatland. The ancient temple rocks are moistened black for weeks at a stretch, and the age-old stepwells hold within them a hundred stories of the women who once roamed their stairways.  

This journey is the gateway into the western fringe of India, right up to the edge of the mainland, across the many rivers that drain the tropical forests. The marks of civilisation fade in and out of view, as they slip into caves of history, Mughal monuments, UNESCO world heritage sites and relics from India’s colonial past.

We will begin in India’s financial capital, Mumbai, or the more romanticised ‘Bombay’ -  a cluster of seven islands that are home to 21 million people who identify themselves as citizens of the metropolitan world. Built from 450 AD, the cave temples of Elephanta are the evidence of a glorious past that is dedicated to Shiva, the Hindu God of destruction and regeneration. A visit to the Victoria Terminus is a perfect introduction to the Gothic architecture introduced by the British in the subcontinent. The journey will segue from the flamboyant station to the corniche lined with Art Deco buildings to the Malabar Hill, into the hanging gardens and Parsi cafes.

From the city of dreams, we will move on towards the interiors of Aurangabad. An imitation of the grand Taj Mahal in limestone and marble stands at Aurangabad. Often referred to as the ‘Baby Taj’, this mausoleum is known as Bibi-ka-Maqbara and was built by one of the last Mughal kings. Close to the city are the famous rock-cut caves of Ajanta and Ellora. A tour of these cave temples reveals intricate interiors and ornamental facades carved and sculpted on ancient basalt rocks.

A provincial Indo-Saracenic style of architecture can be seen in the minarets, domes, and latticework in the mosques in the city of Ahmedabad. Prosperity, that followed trade with the affluent western countries, is reflected in the havelis and courtyard houses of the merchants. It was from Ahmedabad that Mahatma Gandhi orchestrated India’s struggle for freedom. It is now a city that is home to some of the most iconic contemporary architecture in India.

On the west of Ahmedabad lies the region of Kutch. Colour and design stand out as the most salient features found in the handicrafts of Kutch as expressions of the State ’s rich heritage. The highlights of our visit to the tribal villages would be the different forms of embroidery, block printing and tie and dye.  As we take a safari into the wild west of the Gir National Park - a breeding ground of flamingo, pelican, and home of the rare Indian Wild Ass, we will also sight the great Asiatic lion along with leopards and antelopes.

The UNESCO world heritage site of Champaner Pavagadh near Vadodara is a living cultural heritage beginning from the Chalcolithic period. The ancient shrine on the top of a hill is an important place for Hindu pilgrimage. Excavations have also revealed precincts of cities with various places of worship and primitive water tanks. Besides this, Vadodara also houses the royal family of Baroda in the Laxmi Vilas Palace, a unique blend of different schools of architecture.

Of Myth and Mist

An artist gives shape to the distinctive beak of Garuda on a mask painted for bhaona. Closeted hills give way to paddy fields, soon morphing into forests, and suddenly, tea gardens. A lone fisherman awaits on the Brahmaputra, the silhouette of his oar defined against the setting sun. The pungent aroma of bamboo shoot hangs in the air, pork is slow cooked over a fire. The thak-thak sound of the looms create melodies of labour, local women are weaving silk mekhela chadars.

For most of its long history, the northeast of India has remained in isolation, embraced by a mighty mountain range. Exploring the many cultures and diverse features of the land, this journey begins in Guwahati, a city that mirrors the geography of the entire region. Move to Cherrapunjee, the land of clouds – a place where the mist is entwined with the rocks, streams, and hills. From here, descend into Shillong, reminiscent of the Raj with its quaint old buildings. Play hide and seek in the grasslands of Kaziranga with the indigenous fauna species, then alight upon the river island of Majuli, where myths and legends come to life in the bhaonas. In Kohima, discover a rich tribal culture that has grown nestled comfortably within the Naga Hills.

Ringed by a cluster of hills, on the banks of the mighty Brahmaputra in the lower regions of Assam is the largest city of the Northeast, Guwahati. Home to several sites of religious importance, it is the entry into a remote world. The renowned Kamakhya Temple, a sacred site of worship for the mother goddess, Shakti, is one of the most visited places of the area. An ancient domed temple for astronomy rests on one of the hills of the city, proffering sweeping views of the landscape from its heights.

From this seat of power, the journey ascends the mountains of Meghalaya to alight upon Cherrapunjee. A land of high rainfall with undulating hills and green plateaus, the place cannot be mentioned or even thought of, without thinking about mist. The unique climate of this area creates impromptu mists every few minutes, rendering the landscape a sea of cloudy white seconds after viewing it in its green glory. In nearby Mawlynnong, discover how sustainable indigenous practices have made it the cleanest village of Asia. On way to Kaziranga, unwind by the Umiam Lake on the outskirts of Shillong.

In the open grasslands of Kaziranga National Park, encounter the indigenous wildlife. While it rose to fame because of the rare one-horned rhinoceros, the Park is home to a number of other rare species, like the wild water buffalo, leopard, swamp deer, and several migratory birds from Central Asia. After a day of exploration, experience traditional Assamese cuisine in a homely forest retreat.

Drive amidst the unending tea gardens and paddy fields, purple hills in the horizon, to reach Nimati Ghat, from where the ferries bring people to the river island of Majuli. A Neo-Vaishnavaite movement started by social reformer Srimanta Sankardev brought this island into prominence in the 16th century. His philosophy of ‘worship through art’ is still followed in the many xattras of the island, monasteries where people practice this philosophy through music, dance, and theatre.

A land of constantly changing landscapes, the region is heaven for those interested in geography. Ascend the hills of Nagaland from Assam after a drive through Nambor Habi, a forested area inhabited by local flora and fauna. In the capital city of Kohima, discover the rich culture of the tribes, a wealth of arts, dance, cuisine, and craft traditions. Come across fermented foods and the famous bhut jolokiya, the Naga King Chilli, capable of reducing even one who is very at home with spicy foods to tears.

Kingdoms of Old

Ancient myths brought to life under the gentle guidance of the sculptor now repose in forgotten glory. A massive fort nurtures within its walls, living stories. Conical domes – chhatris – peer out of green foliage. Symmetrical white lines meet at the top of an arch, marble in sandstone. Through the black bars on the windows of a train, landscapes become a blur.

This journey delves deep into the history of Madhya Pradesh, examining the many influences that gave birth to the land that lives today. Begin this journey in Gwalior, where a living fort sprawls across a hill. In the former princely state of Orchha, meet a sea of sublime edifices dominating the skyline. Meander through the sculpted temples of Khajuraho, where history meets legend. In the caves of Bhimbetka, discover the ancient relationship humans have with art. Draw your journey through history to a close in the city of Indore, where traditions came together to give birth to an array of architecture.

In the stately city of Gwalior, witness the turning of the pages of history within its many monuments. Legend gave life to the Gwalior Fort, one of the most expansive and majestic forts in the country, which has grown with every dynasty that has ruled here. At one point under the rule of the Slave Dynasty of Delhi, then the Tomars, who endowed the city with its many Jain sculptures. Later it was ruled by the Mughals, and then finally the Scindias, who were heavily influenced by the British. Explore the remnants left behind by each empire, marvellous structures from different schools of architecture.

Drive down to the medieval city of Orchha, an urban settlement that seems preserved in time. Witness a cityscape born 500 years ago, an array of intricate palaces, temples, and cenotaphs, distinct against the waters of the Betwa. The Chaturbhuj temple, dedicated to Rama, an avatar of the god Vishnu, built to resemble the four arms of the god – chatur meaning four and bhuj meaning arms – is one of the oldest structures here. A stunning structure of note is the Jahangir Mahal, paragon of Mughal architecture, that was built for the Emperor on his visit here.

In the ancient town of Khajuraho, find temples that were built more than a thousand years ago. Known for the exquisite detail in their sculptures, these facades depict themes from daily human life, famously recognised for their overtly erotic themes. Made of sandstone, the temples were originally near water bodies, as is typical of Hindu temples, and reflect central Hindu beliefs in their construction. Interspersed within them are Jain temples, of equal intricacy and age, containing within them legends of old.

From the green city of Bhopal, venture into Sanchi, a village brought into prominence by Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE. The great Stupa here was built as part of a larger plan by the Emperor to spread Buddhism across the country. In the caves of Udayagiri, unearth reliefs of Hindu gods in their avatars, when they descended to Earth to save humanity from evil. Ramble into the rock shelters of Bhimbetka, dating back to the Stone Age, and discover interactions between the community and the landscape that lived then.

After a brief road trip, emerge in the Indore of the Holkar dynasty as well as that of the British, illustrative in the many architectural remnants of both rules. Venture into Maheshwar, a site of pilgrimage on the banks of the Narmada that finds mention in several tales from mythology. In Mandu, weave through structures of Pashtun architecture, exemplified in the floating Jahaz Mahal set between two lakes, or Roopmati’s Pavilion, an observation post with a romantic history.

A Beast Among Birdsongs

The season turns, migratory waterfowl alight upon the banks of a lake. As the sun dips lower into the horizon, herds of swamp deer canter over grasslands, retreating for the night. A solitary jeep rolls over the forest track, the crunch of the tire on dry leaves distinct in the quiet wilderness. Between the foliage, glimpses emerge, of a tiger on the prowl for prey. A while away, sculptures from mythology age gracefully in an amber hued town.

This journey touches upon the major wildlife sanctuaries and national parks in north and central India, providing a wide variety of experiences for those enamoured by wildlife. Beginning in Bharatpur, a well-populated bird sanctuary in Rajasthan, the journey moves into the arid forests of Ranthambore. From there, it stops at Kanha, known for its tropical forests and indigenous species of animals. Follow the trail to Panna National Park, witness nurture that has renewed the tiger and gharial populations. On a short excursion to Pench, behold a wide variety of indigenous species, then come to a rest at the famed tiger reserve of Bandhavgarh. Before drawing the journey to a close, unearth ancient Hindu and Jain temples of incomparable architecture in nearby Khajuraho.

Adjacent to the city of Bharatpur is the Keoladeo National Park, a bird sanctuary home to more than 300 species of birds. A man-made wetland developed over the years, the sanctuary plays host to several migratory birds, being on the Central Asian migratory flyway. Within its marshes and grasslands is found rich biodiversity, resounding with the call of a variety of bird and animal life.

From this wetland, drive down to the dry expanses of Ranthambore, where a majestic old fort has been taken over by the wild. Like most other national parks in this region, Ranthambore was initially the hunting ground for the royal families of its neighbouring kingdoms. Now ruled by the king of the jungle, Ranthambore is widely visited for its growing population of Royal Bengal tigers.

After a short flight, alight in Jabalpur, the access point to more than three national parks of Central India. In the meadows of Kanha National Park are found the rare barasingha, or hard-ground swamp deer, unlike other species of swamp deer, which are suited to living on marshy lands. Located in a tropical area, the park is naturally well populated with forests and over a thousand species of plant life, much of which is important for the conservation of indigenous species like the gaur.

North of Jabalpur lies Panna National Park, a vast deciduous forest spread across the Vindhyas. With cascading waterfalls and meandering rivers, Panna is one of the tiger reserves of India where the tiger population has been brought back to life painstakingly. In close proximity sits the Ken Gharial Wildlife Sanctuary, established to renew the fast-declining population of the indigenous species of crocodile.

Drive down to the southernmost edge of the state to discover Pench National Park, believed to have been the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s famous The Jungle Book. Established in 1965, it has a handsome population of tigers, jackals, wild dogs, sloth bears, spotted deer, and Indian gazelle. Its climate allows for dense forest cover, and a large number of trees like teak, salai, amaltas, even bamboo are found in abundance.

In lush Bandhavgarh, the most well-known national park for tigers, explore a changing terrain of steep ridges, forests, and meadows. Containing more than 30 species of mammals, 250 species of birds, and 80 species of butterflies, the jungles of Bandhavgarh are greatly sought after for their diversity in both flora and fauna. Currently housing the largest population of the Royal Bengal tiger in the world, it is also well-populated by endangered species like that of the gaur and the Indian wolf.

In the ancient town of Khajuraho, experience the harmonious coexistence of temples belonging to two schools of belief, Hinduism and Jainism. Built in the 10th century by the Chandela dynasty of the Bundelkhand region, the Khajuraho Group of Monuments are a masterpiece of architecture and sculpture. More than 80 such intricate temples existed initially, around twenty of which survive till date.

Where Stones Speak

A stream of crowd separates at the helm to reveal the image of a proud, triumphal arch. A cool breeze filters across the lake and into the eye of a cave, softening an ancient dance of sculpted figures. Amidst sounds of a hawker's call to wares, the aroma of a simmering biryani sifts through. Illuminated by the first light of the day, a crumbling ruin narrates stories of its wager with time.

In this journey through some of the historical cities of South India, trace the legacy of empires from the classical and medieval period. Begin in Hyderabad, whose cyberspace frontiers draw back to a history of competing sultanates. Passing former Islamic strongholds in north Karnataka, travel to the once-flourishing capitals of Hindu empires in Badami and Hampi. Towards the end, traverse the quiet settlements surrounding Halebidu, a former seat of power of the Hoysala empire.

Arrive in Hyderabad, whose streets were laid out around the waters of river Musi by a 16th-century Qutb Shahi emperor. Now a bustling metropolis, the city still exudes an old-world charm in its imposing mosques and mausoleums. The 16th-century fortress of Golconda resounds with stories of an old, diamond vault, while the extensive Salar Jung museum displays a wealth of artefacts from around the world.

Travelling westwards, glimpse at the architectural heritage preserved in the countryside of Bidar, Gulbarga and Vijayapura. The soaring minaret of a madrasa in Bidar, delicate Persian art adorning the tombs of Gulbarga, and the magnificent, domed mausoleum of Vijayapura, depict the artisanship of the Bahmani Sultanate that ruled the land from the 14th to 17th centuries.

Moving deeper into the Deccan, alight at the quiet village of Badami settled along the banks of an ancient lake. Badami, as the capital of the Chalukya empire from the 6th to 8th centuries, preserves a singular craftsmanship in the exquisite friezes and rock-cut temples that adorn its sculpted, red sandstone hills. Nearby, the villages of Aihole and Pattadakal further a display of immaculate rock-cut shrines from the classical period.

After a short drive, arrive at Hampi, capital of the Vijayanagara empire in the 14th century. Surrounded by leafy palms and rocky boulder hills, the ruins of Hampi whisper stories of elaborate temple rituals, city planning and an eventual decline at the hands of battle.

Further south, meander in the quiet settlements surrounding Halebidu and Belur. Seat of the powerful Hoysala empire in the 11th century, its distinctive temples exemplify the dance of art in stone, profused with details of the lifestyle, traditions and religious beliefs of the people.

Towards the end, arrive at Shravanabelagola, where the monolith of a revered Jain figure looks on meditatively over an expanse of temples and matted hills. Dating back to the 10th century, the town links its origins to the asceticism of a Mauryan emperor, becoming an important pilgrimage centre for Jainism.

Aromas that the Ships brought

Silhouette of a vessel appears on the distant horizon. A strong breeze brings with it faint scents that move back and forth like the restless tides. The dawn breaks to teeming spice markets.  An old fisherman looks over his fresh catch. In the shades of a cathedral, workers relax, sipping the local beverage. A group of pilgrims wait, in reverence, for the prasad. Elsewhere, in a kitchen, a dish simmers with the rich fragrance of a closely guarded Arabic recipe.

Throughout history, port towns have been the receivers of new cultures - embracing the many beautiful confluences with time. This trail appears in the cosmopolitan centre of Mumbai, where the influence of many styles has found expression in the city’s streets. It then heads along the coastline to Goa, the famous yet unexplored beach town of India. From there it heads to Udupi, which stands in complete contrast, a holy town known for its deeply religious aura. In the red-hued lanes of Mangalore, experience a spicy, flavour-rich confluence of cultures and cuisine. This gastronomic expedition comes to an end at the multicultural city of Calicut, where the remnants of Arab culture linger in the aromas of the kitchen.

From spacious highrises to tiny chawl hamlets, Mumbai is a city for everyone. A haven for many communities that have migrated over the years, the city has developed an eclectic cuisine style, taking from the many cooking traditions including that of the Parsis. Known widely for its cosmopolitan nature and glamorous extravagance, the real taste of the city, be it the spicy hot paav or the quenching sharbat, lies in the many stalls and cafes along its streets.

A harsh salty breeze carrying the smell of freshly cooked fish wipes away the imagery of crowded urbanity. Bask in the warmth of the afternoon sun on the beaches of Goa. A popular holiday destination for Indians, the beach city hides behind its pomp and festivity a richness in its culture which has evolved as a confluence of many, especially that of the Portuguese.

The redolence of seafood slowly fades and the beach winds tickle the nose with a dainty smell. Enter the quaint town of Udupi where the streets are filled with devotees walking towards or coming back from temples. The day begins with a freshly brewed cup of filter coffee. The cuisine is satvic, an entirely vegetarian cuisine that was born in the mutts of Udupi to cater to the travellers and vagabonds who roamed the lands as religious and spiritual pilgrims.

At Mangalore, a city that evokes the countryside of Kerala, this gastronomic quest reaches a threshold point. Nestled between the Konkan coast and the inland Western Ghats, Mangalorean cuisine is a rare blend of the many culinary styles found around, ranging from the spicy Konkan seafood to the tantalising Udupi idlis.

The whiff of spices transports one to an era when traders from faraway lands set shop in the spice markets of Calicut. A port town since ancient days, the cuisine has been greatly influenced by the Arab traders and the later European settlers. Walk the streets as the heavy coastal wind carries the rich sweet smell of bananas, coconuts and spices that emanate from the many corners and taste the delicious golden pazhampori along with some sharp suleimani chai.