AKUL TRIPATHI, Head of Programming, Epic TV shares a list of five almost unheard of places in India that not only are a few of the most intriguing travel destinations in the country, but also have some amazingly stories attached to them.
BY AKUL TRIPATHI
Head of Programming, Epic TV
Travel and I have a relationship that predates this birth. For this lifetime, we are conjoined twins. So, when along came the opportunity to write and host the travel-history show ‘Ekaant’ on Epic channel, to say ‘yes’ was the easiest decision I have had to make. Yet, with it has come a consequence which is as amusing as it is irritating - that constant question from everyone you meet “What is the best place you have visited?”
Now, I have always been uncomfortable with the usage of phrases like ‘Top 5’; ‘10 Things To Do Before You Die’; ‘Bucket List’, etc., ‘listicles’ as they are termed; in a convoluted butchering of the more stately articles I grew up reading. Yet, when I see lists of India’s heritage gems being circulated around the Internet based sheerly on popularity and certain titles bequeathed by bodies national and international, I feel compelled to break out of that vicious cycle and present some from my travels. Perhaps just to show that there is more to know than can be incorporated in a listicle.
So, here’s my pick of India’s heritage – not a definitive list nor listed in any order of importance or even alphabetically, and limited solely due to my lack of knowledge and dearth of experience. Just places from my memories that choose to come alive at this moment, in this context.
Mountains of petrified gods: Kailashahar is a small town in Tripura, located along the IndoBangladesh border. The district derives its name from a hill which is believed to have petrified forms of gods of the Hindu pantheon. Legend has it that once Lord Shiva was travelling back to his hometown Kashi with other Gods. They decided to rest for the night at the place now called Unakoti and start out at dawn. However, at dawn, none of the Gods had woken up, prompting a miffed Shiva to curse them to forever rest as they were – but in stone.
Those whose names we know not: On Google maps, the North Sentinel Island would seem as just another piece of gorgeous sandy beaches with a dense forest in the exotic islandscape of the Great Andaman archipelago, but you would be punishable by law if you did venture there. Though legally administered by the Union territory of Andaman & Nicobar Islands, it is the home of one of the last uncontacted tribes of the world – the fierce Sentineles. The tribe is known to greet approachers with a curtain of arrows.
An open-air art gallery: Popular as the largest open-air art gallery of the word, Ramgarh in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan has an intriguing history. The main attraction in Ramgarh, besides the havelis, is the cenotaph (chhatri) of Ram Gopal Poddar. Built in 1872, it houses more than 500 marvellous murals amongst which the one in the central dome can be singled out as exceptional.
Deer that dance on a forest that floats: A twohour bus drive out of Imphal in Manipur is Loktak Lake - the largest freshwater lake in the North-east region. It has floating vegetation called ‘phumdi’, an accrual of organic biomass that is light enough to float but at places strong enough to support considerable weight, even that of humans. The Loktak Lake houses the Keibul Lamjao National Park, home to the dancing deer of Manipur. The deer have adapted to the floating biomass and have mastered the trick of distributing their weight on it, making it look like they are dancing.
An ode to death: About three km to the north east of Bidar lies perhaps the most surprising monuments of Karnataka – a set of mausolea, the royal necropolis of Ashtur, which has tombs of the erstwhile Bahamani sultans and their spiritual advisers – the Nimatullahs. The tombs of Ashtur are a mirror to the fortunes of Bidar - grand, oversized and then steadily diminishing. The most striking tomb is the tomb of Humayun. In what seems like technicolor when compared to its monochrome exteriors, the tomb comes ablaze with shades of gold, vermillion, cobalt and azure, bringing to life floral motifs, geometric designs and Quranic verses.