Public Spaces

Maharaja’s Palace, Mysuru

If you ever were to give an example of fine luxury and grandeur to a friend, you could take them to the Maharaja’s Palace in Mysuru. This official residence of the Wodeyar dynasty is a visual spectacle

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First built in the 14th century, entirely out of wood, the palace is a testament to the irrepressible spirit of the people of Mysuru and the kings that have lived there.
The current palace is the fourth built up from the ground and was completed in 1912. Designed by British architect Henry Irwin, the palace is a worthy example of the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture that blends together Hindu, Muslim, Rajput, and Gothic architecture.
The history of the palace is action-packed with battles, politics and misfortunes. In 1638, the palace was struck by lightning. It was rebuilt by Kantirava Narasa Raja Wodeyar. He even added new pavilions.

But after the death of Chikka Devaraja Wodeyar the kingdom plunged into political instability and became prey to Tipu Sultan in 1793.
Just six years later, upon his death the Wodeyar dynasty took charge of the palace again and commissioned a new one in its place in 1803. This wooden palace too faced misfortune and was burnt to the ground at a wedding ceremony.
In the last chapter of this tainted and charred history of the palace, its destiny was passed on to queen regent Kempananjammanni Vanivilasa Sanndihana. She commissioned the masterpiece that we marvel at today for a whopping ₹42 lakh in 1912.

Mysuru Palace, also known as Amba Vilas Palace, is located in the heart of the city; it was planned with all roads branch out of the palace boundaries. Surrounded with an aesthetically designed vast garden, the palace is a three storied building, built with stone and marble domes.
It also has a five-storied, 145-ft high tower. The most striking feature of the palace are its deep pink marble domes on top of grey granite, which was designed by Irwin. Its portico is designed with seven vast arches while the central arch is bordered by two smaller ones, surrounded by tall beautiful pillars.

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The front of the palace has an open balcony supported by massive circular columns. The beautifully designed square towers at various cardinal points are covered with domes.
And if you are floored by the arching exteriors, wait till you get inside. Just as you enter, the Doll pavilion welcomes you. Antiques made of gold, silver, marble, ivory from around the world are on display, some of them are over 900 years old.
The palace holds so much history that it feels like walking through a gorgeous museum that treasures souvenirs, paintings, jewellery, royal costumes and other items, which were once possessed by the Wodeyars.
It’s a kaleidoscope of stained glass and mirrors. The tastefully decorated and intricately carved doors open into luxuriously decorated rooms. The ground floor with an enclosed courtyard displays costumes, musical instruments, toys and numerous rich portraits.
The upper floor houses a small collection of weapons and hunting equipment from the time when the royals would go for game-hunting as a sport.
The beautifully carved mahogany ceilings, solid silver doors, white marble floors and superb columned Durbar Hall are breathtaking. The palace is a treasure house of exquisite carvings and works of art from all over the world. Exquisitely carved doors open into stunningly luxurious rooms.
And if you head south of the palace you will enter the marriage pavilion or the Kalyana Mantapa.

This colossal hall has an octagonal gabled roof, covered by stained glasses. The flooring of this magnificent Kalyana Mantapa has artistic geometrical patterns created using glittering glazed tiles imported from England. And it all comes alive under the light of many dazzling Czechoslovakian chandeliers.
The royal throne, the regal seat is called the Chinnada Simhasana or Ratna Simahasana; captivating artwork on its gold plates is displayed during the Dasara festival.
The Maharajas of Mysuru used to sit on the golden throne and hold durbars in the Palace Durbar Hall. The paintings of eight manifestations of Goddess Shakti and an original painting of the renowned painter Raja Ravi Verma adorn the walls of the Durbar Hall.
This royal extravaganza also houses the oldest temple in Mysuru. The Sri Lakshmi Ramana Swami Temple is said to have immense power and there are urban legends to support this claim. Kodi Bhairava Swamy Temple is another important one in the palace. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva, in the form of Bhairava.
All this charm and magnificence amplifies during the world famous Mysuru Dussehra Festival. Stages are set up in the palace ground where many famous artistes perform.
On the 10th day, when the festival of Dashami is celebrated, a parade with highly ornamented elephants is conducted from the palace grounds. The festive fervour during this time at the palace and in Mysuru is something that every traveller must experience at least once.

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And during this festival, the palace is lit with 96,000 lights for two months. This in itself will leave you speechless. If you are planning a visit, do not miss the sound and light show. It will probably be the most interesting history lesson you ever attend.

LEGENDS MOTORCYCLE CAFÉ AND MUSEUM, BENGALURU

Probably the only place in the world where you will get free advice on engine oils along with your plate of Biryani. Mount your saddles as we rev through one of India’s most unique museums.

WORDS: AMOGH PUROHIT

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A way from the city’s humdrum, Frazer town is a quiet suburb in Bengaluru. Right in its heart, on 15, Wheeler road is Legends Motorcycling Cafe & Museum, the first of its kind in India, is the offspring of a two-decade love affair between a man and his mean machines. The two-storied building, tastefully Gothic-like, which houses the museum, along with a café, has a satisfyingly retro air about it. Everything is vintage about this place, and each object seems like it has a mysterious tale to be explored.
An unstoppable biker, S.K. Prabhu says he biked down each and every highway across the country. And at 42, he is living the dream of countless men. He not only started this beautiful café and museum but also a vintage motorcycle cult amongst the youth.
One enters into the café and is welcomed with a homely vibe and a lot of themed furniture. The quotes and biking collectibles convince you to spend the afternoon. The ground floor is the dining area and the flight of stairs takes you back to post war era. More than 20 vintage, well-kept motorbikes line the walls. All of these bikes are in prime condition and Prabhu rode them there himself. Prabhu started collecting in 1992 and is always on the lookout for the next vintage bike that will adorn his wall. Although, the cream and red-hot Cezeta, a 1962 model scooter from

Czechoslovakia — more of a slightly overweight darling amid the other macho motorcycles — is definitely the showstopper.
In the in-house café on the ground floor, the mood is set with some jazz and blues only punctured by the low din of bikers discussing engines and spare parts over authentic south Indian coffee. This is the only floor that serves food. The old record player, the hand-operated coffee grinder and the roasted Arabica beans, they take this café to a completely distant and nostalgic place. The odd five or six tables are unique on their own and sometimes just not enough for all the bike enthusiasts that flock the café and museum, especially on Sundays.

The seating arrangements are all wood and give a rustic feel. The salon-styled high chairs against a massive wooden bar table remind you of stories from the Wild West. Everything on that floor gives you a very ‘been there, done that’ look. As if everything there has been through an adventure. Just to break monotony they also have one Singer sewing machine table. The tables, chairs and even the refrigerator are conspicuously classic.
The crockery is mixed and matched, making you feel like you’re having snacks at a friend’s place.
The menu is handwritten and it lists various options for breakfast lunch and even dinner on all days, probably because this could very well be one of the only

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A stroll will make you pause and admire the made in England, militarymodeled motorcycles of the Second World War like the Norton 500 cc and James ML 1942 Hand-gear.

museums that stay open to all from 6 am to 11 pm. You can pick from eggs and toast to a full plate of biryani and paya.
One thing you wont find a dearth of, are photo frames. In fact in one corner you will even find the pictorial chronicles of owner Prabhu’s biking adventures. Prabhu thinks the older generation of motorcycling still brings in the crowds and takes pride in keeping this spirit alive. Some of the motorcycles he’s acquired took a lot of time and effort to get to his museum.

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Some of them had to be imported from countries like the United Kingdom and New Zealand. A few of the motorcycles date back to the 1920s and 1930s.
A stroll will make you pause and admire the made in England, military-modeled motorcycles of the Second World War like the Norton 500 cc and James ML 1942 Hand-gear. There is also an American 1962 Whizzer. The BSA collection, Mr. Prabhu’s favourite and hung on the wall, includes a 1924 BSA 250 cc with round tank and carbide lamps, a 1928 BSA 500 cc flat tank with carbide lamps, and the BSA Bantam D1 1962-1966. The BSAs are all made and imported from the UK. Among these bikes, a 1962 German Florette, NUS and a DKW Hummel take the cake. Prabhu maintains and takes care of these bikes on his own. He takes a little too much care of the Italian Lambretta Innocenti 1960.
Often you can see a huddle of bikers outside, in the parking lot of the café. For some this has become a hangout spot and for some, just a quick stop at their

favourite café on the way to work. Crammed with an astonishing collection of motorcycles whose vintage dates back to 1924, this museum has all the ingredients to write a small portion of biking history. And with an unconventional host, a vintage setting and filter coffee along with rare rides, Legends motorcycle café and museum makes for a worthy Sunday trip.

HISTORIC MONUMENTS JANTAR MANTAR AND MUMBAI MUSEUM

MANY historic monuments over the years have become an integral part of the nation’s culture. Today, we take a walk though the timelines of two such structures that have become a vital part of India’s history – Jantar Mantar in Delhi and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya in Mumbai

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JANTAR MANTAR
Located in the heart of New Delhi, Jantar Mantar holds a special place in the hearts of the people of the metropolis. Comprising of 13 huge architectural and astronomical instruments, it was built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II; he built five across western and central India.

1724
There’s much confusion about the year of construction of the Jantar Mantar. A plaque was placed at the site in 1910, mistakenly suggesting the year of construction to be 1710. Archaeological research revealed the construction to have begun in 1724.

1763
His son, Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh I refused to pay allegiance to the Kacchawaha kings since succeeding to the leadership of the Jats. Soon after the construction of the Misra Yantra, one of the four distinct astronomical instruments at the Jantar Mantar observatory, it was looted by Maharaj Jawahar Singh

1795-1803
The observatory was mentioned in the collection of aquatints of British artists Thomas and William Daniell as the Observatory at Delhi.

1846
Even Syed Ahmed Khan, the 19th century philosopher, Islamic reformist and scholar, in his record of the historic buildings of Delhi, Atharal Sanadid, stated that the instruments have fallen into disuse and are almost in ruins.

1852
Raja Rama Singh II of Jaipur commissioned conservation work for the most imposing Yantra of the observatory, the Samrat.

1867
More than a century after its construction, the Jantar Mantar had decayed considerably. It had reduced to picturesque ruins.

1909 – 1910
Although negotiations had begun as early as 1889 between the Delhi District Board and Jaipur State, the elaborate restoration project began in 1909.

1960
The Yantra became intriguing architectural shapes or archaeological remains. The symbolic, spatial and functional link between Yantras and the Bhairon temple had been severed. Hence, a wall and a gated entry was built between the two in 1960.

2000
The gate was sealed in 2000 to introduce a ticketing system for the observatory.

2009
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) nominated Jantar Mantar for world heritage inscription in 2010 for cultural sites.

2014
Once known for its historical and architectural importance, Jantar Mantar has now become the unofficial designated protest site in Delhi.

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CHHATRAPATI SHIVAJI MAHARAJ VASTU SANGRAHALAYA
One of the oldest museums in Mumbai, it has strived to preserve documents and photographs, especially related to its history.

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1904
Eminent personalities including Sir Phirozeshah Mehta, Justice Chandravarkar, Justice Badrudin Tyabji, Narotamdas Gokuldas, David Sassoon, Jamshetjee Jeejeebhoy and Kikabhai Premchand got together to create something unique on August 14, 1904, in the form of the museum, to honour the visit of the Prince of Wales

1905
The foundation stone was laid by the Prince of Wales and the museum was named after him. It soon started collecting important documents, art pieces and relics to display.

1909
Architect George Wittet, the then consulting architect to the government, was appointed to design the museum building.

1911
The statue of Prince of Wales, sculpted by George T Wade, was donated by David Sassoon to commemorate the visit of Prince George and Princess Mary of Wales.

1909
Construction of the building began in 1909 and was completed in 1914. The cost of the block and the necessary additions and alterations amounted to about rupees nine lakh.

During, the construction, the collection was stored in the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society basement, now known as the Asiatic Library.

1914
During World War I, the building was used by the military as a hospital and subsequently for the Children’s Welfare Exhibition.

1915
The museum acquired Indian miniatures and other antiquities from the well-known collection of Seth Purushottam Mavji, which were once a part of the treasures of Nana Phadnis (1741-1800), a minister in the Peshwa period.

1919
The famous excavated artefacts from the Buddha stupa of Mirpurkhas were brought to the museum by its excavator Henry Cousens.

1921
The building was formally handed over to the board of trustees by the Public Works Department.

1922
The museum was opened to the public by Lady Lloyd, wife of Lord Lloyd, the Governor of Bombay.

The major art collections of Sir Ratan Tata and Sir Dorab Tata were bequeathed to the museum. The Tata collection comprises two major sections, the European and the Far Eastern. Some outstanding Indian antiquities such as textiles, arms, bronzes and paintings formed part of this magnanimous gift. Lady Ratan Tata donated the furniture for the galleries.

1934
The museum was also enriched by the gift of antiquities from the Sir Akbar Hydari collection.

1995
A very interesting and valuable collection was added from Karl and Meherbai Khandalavala Trust.

1998
The Prince of Wales Museum was renamed as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, after the city was renamed Mumbai in 1995

2010
The textile gallery, the first in the city, was launched in April.

2017
New galleries were launched in July, highlighting the early phase of the JJ School of Art and the progressive art movement.

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Mayong: Land of Black Magic

Assam. The land of beautiful hillside and valleys, gardens and scenic landscapes, also hides a secret: a dark secret about black magic and cursed objects. Mayong Central emporium is a collection of such objects and artefacts

WORDS: AMOGH PUROHIT

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On the banks of the Bramhaputra, in the quiet land of Assam, Mayong is a tiny village in the Morigaon district around 40 km from Guwahati. But this tiny village holds huge secrets and is popularly called the Land of Black Magic. Once upon a time it was considered to be the cradle of black magic and dark curses in India.
The name itself, some believe, comes from the Sanskrit word, Maya, which means illusion or magic. Some locals believe the name came from the Dimasa word for an elephant, which is Miyong, while others believe the land to be a part of Mother Shakti herself.

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You can easily find the names Mayong and Pragjyotishpura (the ancient name of Assam) in many mythological epics including Mahabharata. It is said that chief Ghatotkacha of Kachari kingdom took part in the battle of Mahabharata after attaining magical powers from this place.
A walk through the village and a few conversations later you will be familiarised with the folklore and the stories of men disappearing into thin air in certain areas.
Some might even convince you that people can convert into animals or beasts during certain times of the year that can be only magically tamed. The locals insist that sorcery and black magic were traditionally practised and passed down over generations. Some suggest that the great saints and witches of Mayong linger around and live in the forests even today.
Many people believe that magic in Mayong was used for social welfare. One of the magic tricks led to curing an illness from a distance only by cutting a handful of plants while chanting some secret incantations.

Folklore suggest that in the earlier days there lived a sorcerer by the name of Chura Bez in Assam. The word of his magical powers had spread far and wide. Chura Bez was known to be able to disappear into thin air just by muttering the ‘Luki mantra’.
And not so long ago Mayong was infamous for human sacrifices or Narabali as the locals call it. They believed this pleased mother Shakti. Excavators had recently dug up swords and other sharp weapons that resembled tools used for human sacrifice in other parts of the country. This suggested that human sacrifice may have occurred in the Ahom era in Mayong.
Inaugurated in 2002, the Mayong Central Museum and Emporium is viewed as a time capsule of past culture. It appears unassumingly simple from the outside. But as you walk in, you encounter some of the strangest exhibits you’d expect in a museum.
Ancient manuscripts of Black Magic and Ayurveda and various mythological epics line the shelves. Some are even showcased in glass exhibits to point out particular rituals of black magic.

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Crafted stone statues, seashells and old coins and old jewellery like necklaces and rings that have been said to be cursed or worn by black magicians from long ago are neatly arranged in the museum. All of these artefacts were once used in rituals or used by those who would perform them.

It has successfully served as a tourist hub for Assam, which is hardly surprising because it is without a doubt totally intriguing. All those who visit can learn of the origins of tantra and are given demonstrations of ancient rituals by the locals. This is certainly unlike any other museum experience.
Crafted stone statues, seashells and old coins and old jewellery like necklaces and rings that have been said to be cursed or worn by black magicians from long ago are neatly arranged in the museum. All of these artefacts were once used in rituals or used by those who would perform them.
Amongst the many scriptures that have been excavated the museum displays are palm leaves, terracotta and bronze items with archaeological prominence dating back at least a century.
Mayong has an eerie silence that stands in utter contrast with its dark and chaotic history. That is what draws in tourists from around the world to this small village in Assam.
Today, in the days of technology and science, people often dismiss magic as superstition. But there are still many people in Assam who would go to these witch doctors with their troubles and miseries.
Mayong is now a famous tourist and archaeological spot because of its rich wildlife, archaeology, pilgrimage, eco-tourism, adventure and river tourism.
Also close to Mayong is the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, which has the highest density of one horned rhinoceros in the world. If you’re 40 km from Guwahati and have an hour to kill, head to the sanctuary. At least, you will go back with a bagful of spooky stories to tell your buddies. With rich wild life, mysterious stories and so much more, Mayong and Assam have a lot to offer. So plan your holiday to Assam, where we’ve heard the tea is really good.

ZIPPING THROUGH AMRITSAR & CHANDIGARH

If you are planning a road trip to the north and then driving through the cities of Amritsar and Chandigarh, we’d say that’s a great idea. Join us as we take you around to marvel at these scenic cities that make driving a pleasure

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opular across the world for amazing food, high-energy dances and bountiful fields, Amritsar is a delight to visit. Like all tourists the first instinct is to visit the Harmandir Sahib or popularly known as the ‘Golden temple’. But on your way to the temple, passing through the lively lanes you will be drawn to the attractive shops that bustle with buyers. These shopping and eating friendly streets are a common sight in Amritsar.
Conveniently located on the historic Grand Trunk Road (GT Road), also known as National Highway 1, Amritsar is very well connected by road network of the north and driving down to the city is much simpler.

Especially with the government spending close to Rs 450 million to convert the Amritsar-Jalandhar stretch of the GT Road into four lanes. An elevated road connects the national highway to the Golden Temple just in case you were coming from further away and in a hurry to visit the Temple. Buses run to and fro from many neighbouring cities and towns. Within the city there are cabs, auto-rickshaws and buses that take you around the winding streets.
The Amritsar Metro bus or the BRTS is relatively new and is aimed at reducing traffic and air pollution.
The Government of Punjab has pledged Rs 580 crore for development of the BRTS.

Although work is still in progress in some areas, people have already started loving this new speedy way of getting around the city.
But as we step out of the city, the Amritsar-Sri Ganganagar National Highway (NH-15) is giving commuters a tough time. The 3km stretch has a number of potholes and is always busy with blaring traffic. The highway is an important route to connect to the southern part of the country. The narrow road doesn’t allow buses and trucks to pass.
So if you’re taking this route during peak hours, you’re asking for trouble. And the railway crossing just adds to the frustration of drivers.

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Chances are you’ll be stuck there for hours. We suggest keeping a deck of cards in the glovebox.
But instead if you were ready to drive about 4 hours east, you would reach the beautiful well-planned city of Chandigarh. From gardens for rocks to roses, Chandigarh has something in store for everyone. It is aptly called City Beautiful.
Post independence, committees were set up to plan cities. Chandigarh was one of the earlest planned cities. The master plan was prepared by Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier. A Polish architect called Maciej Nowicki and an American planner, Albert Mayer, laid out the plans. In 2015, BBC called it as the Perfect City in the World in terms of architecture, cultural growth and modernization. It is also cleanest and first smoke-free city in India. Take a bow, Chandigarh.

The city has one of the highest per capita incomes in the country. And, no wonder highest per capita vehicles. Clean roads and public spaces make Chandigarh a pleasure to live. The buzzing nightlife and serenity of nature with trees and lush green spaces all make it as the happiest city according to a survey by LG electronics.
The smooth roads make you feel like a dream. If you love the feeling of open roads and wind splashing in your hair, don’t miss driving down the Geri Route (sector-8, 9, 10). Driving to Zirakpur is one certainly not to be missed. Stop by a dhaba and enjoy cholebhature. Head up north and soon winding through the hills will be an enchanting experience. Throughout the city you will find wide, well-maintained roads that make commuting a pleasure. Traffic is well controlled and going to a neighbouring city is a scenic experience.
So pack your bags and head north. Amritsar and Chandigarh roads help you explore the beautiful cities.

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NATIONAL RAIL MUSEUM

Railways form nerve centre of Indian economy. It has a rich history. Join us as we take you on a joyride to the one place where all the history is preserved with love and care.

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Chanakyapuri in New Delhi is known for its affluent neighbourhood and for being a diplomatic enclave. But what makes it famous is the National Rail Museum. Hundreds flock daily to this amazing, one-of-its-kind museum, to take a tour and experience the rich history of Indian Railways. Reaching the National Rail Museum is easy by bus, cab, or metro rail.
Its origin dates to the early 70s though the idea of a transport museum was planned as far back as 1962. Thanks to Michael Graham Satow, a rail enthusiast, the museum took shape after foundation stone of the Rail Transport Museum was laid by then President of India VV Giri on October 7, 1971.

Nearly after six years it came to life when the then Minister for Railways Kamlapati Tripathi inaugurated on 1st February 1977.
Originally the Rail Transport Museum was planned as a part of a larger complex covering the history of Railways, Roadways, Airways and Water-ways in India but later developed into a full-fledged National Rail Museum in 1995.
The Museum spread over 11 acres is an elegantly designed octagonal building. There are exhibits housed both indoor and outdoor.
The indoor gallery comprises six display galleries, and a large open display area laid out to replicate the atmosphere of a railway yard. How to go about covering the enormous area of 11 acres, one may ask.

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Nothing to worry as a toy train is at hand to carry you around.
The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm. Tickets cost Rs. 50 for adult and Rs. 10 for child and on weekdays and weekends it is double at Rs. 100 for adults and Rs. 20 for children. Tickets for the simulators, virtual coach rides and toy train rides can be bought at respective counters.

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First of its kind museum in the country, it has the largest number of real, life-sized exhibits of train engines and components.
One can see locomotives and coaches from the princely states across the Indian subcontinent and some of the best train engines ever made in India.
It serves as a home to steam engines like the DHR 777 B, the P Class 31652, the Phoenix, to name a few. It also has many diesel and electrical engines including the Prince of Wales Saloon, the Gaekwar Baroda Saloon, the Nilgiri coach and the Viceregal Dining car. One gets the taste of royalty, first hand walking close to the exhibits.

The Patiala State Mono Rail (PSMT) and the John Morris Fire Engine are the rarest operational exhibits of its kind in the world. The Patiala State Mono Rail was built way back in 1907 and was based on the “Ewing System”. Designed by Col. Bowles this mono rail first ran between Bassi and Sirhind 6 miles a day and the unique train consisted of a track of single rail. The main load (almost 95%) is borne by the single rail while the rest is borne by the balancing wheel which runs on the ground.

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This train built by Orenstein and Koppel of Berlin ran until October 1927.
Once cars and buses came the unique mono rail became obsolete.

Luckily an engine and a Chief Engineer’s Inspection car somehow managed to evade being scrapped in the railways scrap yard till 1962. The remains of Patiala State Monorail Trainways was discovered by a railroad historian Mike Satow.

Thereafter, one engine was restored to working order by the Northern Railway Workshop at Amritsar. Chief Engineer’s private inspection car too was reconstructed completely restoring them to running condition. And now they are proud exhibits at the National Rail Museum in New Delhi.
If one wants to celebrate birthday the restaurant inside the museum can be booked for a private party. Meeting room, lawns and auditorium are also available for booking. There is souvenir shop and walk out happily with a scale model of classic steam or diesel engines and coaches.
National Rail Museum is indeed fun going around for all ages. It also teaches us the glorious past of the evolution of Indian Railways. Next time you would want to ride a train for vacation.