Royalty with all its perks has unique mannerisms that sets it apart from the everyday. The age of the Nawabs might be over on the streets of Lucknow, but they still live on behind closed doors. The innate etiquette, the art of speech and a cultured approach to life are very much the treasured inheritance of the few remaining families. High tea with a Nawab to learn their customs is as close as you will get to the forgotten traditions of eras past.
Powders in every hue imaginable adorn passers-by as the fun filled festival of Holi begins at Barsana. Unlike other celebrations of the same, this is a tribute to an episode from Lord Krishna’s childhood where he not only smeared colour on everyone’s face but was chased after by the gopis (cowherd-women) with sticks in hand! Seems like a scary prospect, doesn’t it? Trust us, it’s all on the up and up.
Shah Jahan’s love for Mumtaz is a timeless tale of epic proportions (as big as the Taj Mahal itself!). At Kalakriti, a cultural academy, the largest marble replica of the monument presents the backdrop for an engrossing play about the royal lovers. We’re sure you’ll feel that little pang of jealousy knowing that a love so deep could even exist, but also wonder at the fact that just 22 artisans put together the entire structure!
The oldest city in India, which looks twice as old in the words of Mark Twain, is in a constant state of prayer and exultation of good winning over evil. But on the full moon day that follows Diwali (or Deepavali) the celebrations are kicked up a notch. You will see every step in every Ghat adorned with earthen lamps, welcoming the Gods coming to take a dip in the Ganges. It is almost a sort of runway for the mythical, if you will!
On a normal day, you may find it hard to digest the sight of men in barely-there underwear rolling around in the sand, but at the Akharas in Varanasi this daily ritual is carried out with a dispassionate precision which will leave you spellbound. The rigorous training and strict regimen the wrestlers follow is reason enough for their popular wins, but more importantly, offer more than just a photo opp in return.
Mughlai influence pervaded the deepest parts of Lucknow culture, down to the core of humanity – the food. Indulge your senses in kebab recipes and halwas that have been around for centuries, hidden away in the back alleys of the city. As you explore the new age dining experience, rest assured you will have your own shiny silverware to perfectly complement the minced meat drenched in delectable Awadhi spices.
If you’re looking for a taste-bud experience away from the norm, look no further than the Ganga and Ganja Tour! While the name, we admit, is made up, the experience is very real. Incredibly flavoured milk (sometimes mixed with cannabis) will flood your senses and give you a good buzz till you pop a Banarasi paan. The tangy sweetness of the betel nut and stuffing with the pungent essence that oozes out of the leaf combine for an unforgettable zing!
Lucknow has an impressive skyline that you simply must observe from the vantage point that Bada Imambara offers. But here’s the catch! It’s not easy to manoeuvre the thousand passages and 489 doorways, some of which lead you in circles, back downstairs when you’re trying to go up, and some even drop off sharply with no way forward! If you think you’re good at mazes, this one will take you on a wild spin.
The world-famous symbol of love, appears quite lonely in all its splendour. But on a full moon night, it almost seems as if the Taj Mahal serenades to the moon in a tale of the unending love of whites… After a night of starry-eyed romance, you can practice some yoga and allow the calmness to wash over you as the solitary Taj looks on.
This city that has incredible English and Mughal influences, yet completely Indian in every way imaginable is best experienced on a bicycle. As you weave through the narrow lanes and whiz past stalled traffic on the larger roads, you might feel like quite the daredevil. For a true understanding of the streets that have aged 400 years, you need to step down and feel the pulse of the land, the local markets and the heritage sites, and not just drive past them all with wanton indifference.
Click for a quick taste of the region!
The famed birthplace of the Hindu God Krishna, is a lovely concoction of temples, the Yamuna River and popular festivals. The holy city attracts thousands of tourists everyday making it one of the busiest small cities in India.
Calmer in comparison to the other cities of Uttar Pradesh, this city is best known for its grandiose monuments and overstated parks and gardens, many boasting marble sidewalks and pink sandstone a plenty.
Giving new meaning to the phrase ‘Old, alone, done for’, this once magnificent fort city was abandoned due to shortage of water. But the colourful bazaars and tenacious village life make for a good visit to the city of red.
This beating heart of Hinduism has a magical charm to it. A dip in the Ganges can wash away the sins while death here can liberate the soul! Not for the faint of heart, the sights and smells will assail your senses, leaving lasting impressions.
The iconic monuments of Taj Mahal and Agra Fort overlooking the Yamuna create a painting of a bygone era of Mughal grandeur that literally take your breath away. The smaller chowks that smatter the area are a treasure trove of trinkets and souvenirs.
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