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Rock Garden, Chandigarh Fantasyland of art

You may have found shapes in stones and collected them to make castles as a kid. Well, Nek Chand took this hobby way too far and thus was born the Rock Garden in Chandigarh

WORDS: AMOGH PUROHIT

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Somewhere back in 1957, a government official got bored and started collecting stones and debris in his spare time. When he started this garden, little did he know that it would turn out to be one of the largest attractions in northern India, with over 5,000 people visiting it every day.
Today, this garden known as Rock Garden is spread over an area of 25 acres in the form of an open-air exhibition hall, theatre trove and a miniature maze all rolled into one vast fantasyland of art. It is completely built of industrial and home waste and thrown-away items.
An unpretentious entrance leads to a magnificent, almost surrealist arrangement of rocks, boulders, broken chinaware, discarded fluorescent tubes, broken and castaway glass bangles, building waste, coal and clay -all juxtaposed to create a dream folk world of palaces, soldiers, monkeys, village life, women and temples.
The open-air sculptures and concealed gateways separating them are at places enhanced by a waterfall, pools and an open-air theatre with proper stage setting. Here, in this small but artistic theatre, several prestigious performances have been staged. The unique blend of art and culture has attracted artists and connoisseurs from all over the world making it almost a heritage site.

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On display are statues, dolls and toys made using a variety of discarded materials such as automotive frames, mudguards, forks, handle bars, metal wires, play marbles, crowns of soft drink bottles, porcelain, broken bangles, pieces of slate, burnt bricks and even human hair from barber shops.

Humble road inspector
The creator of the Rock Garden, Nek Chand, was a humble road inspector. For sport, he would roam around at the foothills of the Shivalik mountains on his bicycle and pick up stones resembling shapes of birds and animals. He found potential in this hobby and gradually his collection mounted to a staggering 20,000 rocks of all shapes and sizes. These were deposited around a hut, which he had built for his work and contemplation. The Rock Garden, as we know it, began here by the side of a stream.
It was only in February 1973 that a government official, on reconnaissance duty in the forest in which the garden is located today, accidentally discovered the Rock Garden. Soon thereafter, the late Dr. M S Randhawa, former Chief Commissioner of Chandigarh, visited the garden and suggested that this garden of rocks, stones and scrap was the most unusual and it should be preserved in its present form, free from the interference of architects and town planners. The Rock Garden was finally inaugurated in 1976.
Since the site where the Rock Garden stands today was also used as a dumping ground for urban and industrial

waste, Nek Chand picked up pieces of foundry lime-kiln and metal workshop wastes and also shaped them with his creative genius, resembling human, animal or abstract forms. These pieces are up on display throughout the garden. Making the best use of waste, on display are statues, dolls and toys made using a variety of discarded materials such as automotive frames, mudguards, forks, handle bars, metal wires, play marbles, crowns of soft drink bottles, porcelain, broken bangles, pieces of slate, burnt bricks and even human hair from barber shops. This just goes on to show how urban and industrial waste can be fruitfully recycled and used in creative pursuit.

Lost kingdom
Nek Chand laid out the garden based on the fantasy of a lost kingdom. The moment one enters the garden, the small entrance doors make the head bow; they not only create an ambience of royal grandeur but also impart humbleness. One has to pass through a variety of doorways, archways, vestibules, streets and lanes of different scales and dimensions, where each door opens to new courtyards and chambers revealing his magnificent works at every turn.

In this kingdom made of rocks and other recycled material, the Rock Garden has 14 different chambers like the forecourt that houses natural rock-forms, a royal poet’s and a musician’s chamber complete with a pond and a hut; the main court or Durbar, where the king’s throne adorns the place with natural stone forms depicting Gods and Goddesses lining the place; a swimming pool for the queen, etc.

Another phase of the garden comprises the grand palace complex, minars, water falls, a village, mountains, bridges, pavilions and areas for royal pleasures. The tree and root sculpture offers a powerful counterpoint to the existing vegetation.
If you plan to visit, make sure to attend the Teej festival. The Rock Garden adorns a festive look, holding a special attraction for tourists. Young girls partake in the fun and frolic by swaying on the giant swings, while others decorate their hands with mehendi. And all this happens in an atmosphere of dance, songs and joy.

Arna Jharna, Jodhpur

Whatever you knew about museums is about to change. Arna Jharna is an open museum spread across 10 acres in the magnificent Thar desert. Let us take you through folk music, utensils and brooms through the ages from all across Rajasthan in this fascinating museum

WORDS: AMOGH PUROHIT

ARNA Jharna, meaning forest and spring, is located in the middle of Thar desert in Rajasthan. The brainchild of renowned folklorist and ethnomusicologist Komal Kothari, it was established in 2000.
Kothari had a particular picture painted for the museum way before he built it and that’s probably why he waited until he found the perfect spot, Arna Jharna, in the village of Moklawas, about 15 kms from Jodhpur city.
In the middle of the desert was this patch of earth that was a true epitome of forest and spring. Encompassing a rocky outcrop and a ravine, which includes an old stone quarry turned watershed, with breathtakingly beautiful views of the rock-strewn plains of the scrubland, the location showcases the raw beauty of the Marwar region of Rajasthan.

HAVEN FOR DESERT FLORA, FAUNA
The museum site is surrounded by protected forest areas, sacred spots and water bodies, and is a haven for desert flora and fauna.
It is home to nearly 30 different varieties of trees and shrubs ranging from the ubiquitous Babul to the endangered Phog and from the Tulsi to the Zijnni shrubs.
The varied grasses, shrubs and low branches of trees provide fodder for sheep, camels and cattle.
Generations of lore and logic have distilled a bank of knowledge on the medicinal properties of arid plant species. Birds frequent this little oasis from around the world and the evenings are lit up with the sunset and the sweet sounds courtesy of the peacocks coming to the watershed.

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The red-earth houses and huts in the village’s style of architecture provide the perfect backdrop.
Inside the museum you encounter an extensive collection of brooms from Rajasthan, indicating entire galaxies of rituals and beliefs associated with them. A series of videos also talk about the communities around, the labour, skills and even risks associated with making brooms.
The brooms are classified according to the different agrarian zones of Rajasthan like millet (bajra), sorghum (jowar) and maize.

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GENDERED BROOMS
Brooms also have gender. The ‘female’ brooms are used in the inner spaces and the ‘male’ ones reserved for outer spaces.
They have been named so too. For example, some female brooms are ‘buari’ and ‘havarni,’ and their male counterparts are called ‘bungra’ and ‘havarno.’
The female brooms are associated with the goddess Lakshmi, signifying prosperity, and are stored in a horizontal position for luck.
The male brooms tend to be sturdier, making them suitable for the purpose of sweeping rougher surfaces. Some of them are also used during the harvest season to remove husk.
Just as you walk further, you come across a stunning collection of musical instruments unique to western India, including popular instruments such as the ravanahatta, gujratan sarangi, sindhi sarangi and the surinda, and some that are no longer used or produced, such as the jantar, jogia sarangi and nagfani.
Built in the local style of village architecture, Arna Jharna evokes the romance of nomadism with open-air music performances by local groups and artistes of the region.

BEAUTIFUL PUPPETS
And it doesn’t end there. Keep walking through this living museum and you will find yourself in the company of beautiful puppets made by locals and earthen pots and pans used over the years.
The beauty of this museum is not just in the exhibits and the architecture. Apart from the collection, all aspects of biodiversity, geology and water harvesting associated with the site are part of the museum.
The outside and inside of the museum are interrelated and somehow connected. Marked by a devotion to the natural and organic resources of Rajasthan, the museum is dedicated to the local communities and their knowledge, art and culture.
Arna Jharna, through displays such as that of different kinds of brooms and pottery, gives visitors a glimpse into not only the labour and skills of the local communities but also the world of rituals and beliefs associated with these objects of daily life.
These humble objects are rooted in the local ecology and traditional knowledge systems of the region. This just goes on to show and pay tribute to the importance of inconspicuous objects in our lives, like the broom.

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Sudha Cars Museum, Hyderabad Taking your imagination for a ride

Sure there’s the Charminar and the world-famous biryani and alleys filled with perfume and culture. But if you done exploring that side of the city, buckle up. We’re taking you on a joyride to Sudha Cars Museum in Hyderabad

WORDS: AMOGH PUROHIT

Everyone loves to play with toy cars as kids. But young Sudhakar didn’t stop there. He never let anything get in the way of his passion and imagination.
At the age of 14, he created his first car collecting the necessary articles from junkyards. And the very next year, he made his first ‘Easy Rider Motorbike’. He tried his hands on a four-wheeler when he was studying in Intermediate II year and created a stunning, rugged-looking ‘Dune Buggy’.
He took his passion forward and as he grew up so did his fondness for making peculiar and unusual vehicles. So, he decided to do just that and in 2010, he opened the gates to Sudha Cars Museum in Hyderabad. Just 6 kms off the city, this museum guarantees you a day of bizarre fun.
Conceptualised and created entirely by Sudhakar Yadav, this museum really takes one’s imagination for a drive. Even if you’re not a car lover, the sheer art and creativity is bound to impress you. It is simply imaginative and innovative.

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There are cars in almost every shape you can see around you in your daily life. An ornament train with its bogies in the shape of jewellery, of bridal dresses, a pool table, a bed, and there’s a replica of the famous red London Bus.
He’s also built India’s smallest train. It can seat up to 10 people, is just 19 feet long and took just 20 days to

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complete. Yadav also happens to hold a Guinness World Record for the same.
In 2005, he built the world’s largest tricycle and rode in the streets of Hyderabad. It had an overall height of 41.6 ft. The wheel’s diameter was 17 ft, and the length was an impressive 37.3 ft.
Yadav and his museum are also mentioned in the Limca Book of Records and have also been featured on Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
His cars may look absurd and unusual, but they are completely functional. Some have the controls neatly hidden away in the body. Imagine going to work in a car shaped like a handbag, a toilet seat or a cricket bat.
In his museum, there are some vintage cars replicas too. They have been created from common everyday cars, and material from unusual places. A basic Maruti car has been turned into an unrecognisable form of a classic car.
There’s even a Rolls Royce lookalike with a Fiat Padmini engine. Indian classic cars are on display here as well for the automobile enthusiast looking for something beyond sheer novelty.

Unique vehicles
A small information board in front of every car tells you more about it; it’s year of making, body type and the time taken to create it. These unique vehicles could take about 20 days to even three years to be ready.

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Yadav also likes to build bikes and cars to commemorate specific occasions. For Children’s Day, he built a pen, pencil, and pencil sharpener fleet. For Women’s Day, he made stiletto and handbag-shaped cars powered by a nimble 6cc engine, and for World AIDS Day, he crafted a condom-mobile.
The museum also displays almost 30 designs of bicycles, each with a unique look and a catchy name like Penny Farthings, Made for Each Other, Tandems, and so on.

What makes the collection even more impressive is the fact that most of the vehicles are customised and have been built using old and unwanted parts from junkyards all around the city. These backyard-made cars cost about Rs 1 lakh to manufacture. And none of his creations are for sale.
Yadav regularly wheels them out for public celebrations, road shows and parades.
The surroundings of the museum are also dotted with interesting objects made from junk found in a scrapyard.

There are bugs made of motorcycle parts, park benches created using suspension coils, and everything that makes you smile.
You might not learn about important historical events or get to witness scientific experiements, but this museum sure takes creativity for a spin. The cars are well-maintained enough to tempt you to take them out for a drive. Visit it any day between 9:30 am and 6:30 pm at a nominal entrance fee and you are sure to walk out smiling thinking of new shapes cars could be made of.

Warangal Fort, Telangana Masterpiece of the Kakatiya dynasty

Time travel might still be limited to sci-fi books. But if you want a trip down to the 13th century, you could head to the Warangal Fort in Telangana. A relic of the past, this fort is a marvelous spectacle of the Kakatiya dynasty

WORDS: AMOGH PUROHIT

TIME only makes history look even more beautiful. One such stunning example is the Warangal fort in Telangana. Built on a hillock Ekashila in the 13th century, this fort is one of the most significant architectural masterpieces of the Kakatiya dynasty.
The Warangal Fort stands as a worthy example of the historical opulence of the region during the reign of Kakatiya. The tri-city of Warangal-Hanamkonda-Kazipet is known for the Kakatiyas and Telugu culture.
Head towards the southeastern side of Warangal and you will not miss the grandeur of the fort even from a distance. Its architectural excellence and historical richness live up to the reputation. Warangal fort is sure to impress you with its imposing structure.
To ensure safety of the royal family, it was built in three layers of fortification. Although now in ruins, the remains of the fort still present a glimpse of the mesmerising craftsmanship and breathtaking artistry that can be seen in the motifs, sculptures, stonework and more throughout the fort.
Warangal fort has witnessed many battles and various invaders have destroyed parts of it. The remains of the fort have been recognised as a monument of national importance by the Archaeological Survey of India.

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Kakatiya Rudradeva started the construction of Warangal fort when he shifted his capital to Warangal from Hanamkonda centuries ago. It was built under the leadership of Kakatiya Ganapatideva, one of the most illustrious rulers of the dynasty. The fort was considered to be an invincible seat of power.
Under Ganapatideva it was planned in such a way that it breathed protection for all dwellers. The fort boasts of three-layered fortification. The first is a 40-ft high mud wall; the second is a granite wall, closely fitted together. This was done with no mortar, showcasing another sign of architectural masterpiece. The third ring is where the main fort stands.
The fort was built as Ganapatideva had shifted the capital of the Kakatiya kingdom to Warangal from Hanamkonda. Later his daughter Rani Rudrama, who also ruled Kakatiya, looked after the completion of this fort.
This fort withstood many attacks and the destroyed parts tell its tales. In 1309, Malik Kafur, who was the general to Alauddin Khilji, had launched an attack on the fort during the rule of Prataparudra II. A large army attacked the fort in a battle that lasted for many months.
It also faced the wrath of the Sultans of Delhi. Eventually the Qutub Shahi dynasty took control of the fort, which later

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came under the rule of Hyderabad Nizams.
Even after each onslaught, the fort held on to its grand beauty and stature. It is spread across 19 sq km and consists of around 45 towers. But the most attractive part of this fort is the ‘Gateway of Glory’.
This elegant gateway consists of four impressively carved massive pillars that have been built out of a single rock. Standing strong these pillars are around 30 feet high and present intricate carvings. These majestic gateways are also known as Kirti Toranas and represent the south Indian architectural style.
In the middle of the fort, there is a temple dedicated to mother Earth named as Swayambhudevi Alayam. It is said to have been built by Qutub Shahi kings.
Warangal fort has many ruins and the central part has been recognised as an archaeological zone. The ruins of Shiva Temple are another aspect of the fort that should not

Warangal fort has many ruins and the central part has been recognised as an archaeological zone. The ruins of Shiva Temple are another aspect of the fort that should not be missed. You can also see wall slabs, entrance pillars, ceiling panels, relics and many small shrines along the tour.

be missed. You can also see wall slabs, entrance pillars, ceiling panels, relics and many small shrines along the tour.
The main deity of the temple, Linga, with four faces of Lord Shiva has been kept in a shrine towards the southern complex of the fort. Regular prayers are still offered to this deity. The fort complex is also dotted with ponds and various small temples.

These remains offer an insight into the fort structure and of the Kakatiya era. Inscriptions on the pillars and the walls also speak about the period during the reign of the Kakatiyas.
The light and sound show in the evening should not be missed. After all, you wouldn’t want to go back from a fort without feeling like a king.

Brain Museum, Bangalore

A Thought provoking experience

WORDS: AMOGH PUROHIT

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Ever wanted to do something eerily thrilling but wanted to keep it mellow and educational at the same time? Then you should consider heading to the Brain Museum in Bangalore. With over 400 specimens, this one is sure to pick your brains.

In the unsuspecting corners of Hosur Road is a museum dedicated to the human brain. Fondly called the Brain Bank, it is the brainchild of Dr. S K Shankar, professor and head of the department of neuropathology at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) for the past 32 years.
The neuropathology department has been collecting brain specimens to use them in training their students for the past 35 years. In 2010, they began displaying at a one-of-a-kind Brain Museum. It has a collection of over 600 brain specimens.
Neatly stacked in glass jars and display units, it seems like a scene out of a terrifying sci-fi film.

During the autopsy of various patients, permission was taken to take parts of their brain for research. In the process, the team has stumbled upon some fascinating revelations that were otherwise not seen through MRI scans.
Then a brainwave struck Dr Shankar. He wanted to share this knowledge with the rest of the world and let people come and see how the brain looks, what kind of diseases can affect it and how the mind works.

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Sociological problems
Many brain diseases are related to sociological problems. The whole idea of creating a special museum dedicated to the brain was also to spread awareness about them.
For instance, cerebral venous thrombosis, which is often a postpartum phenomenon, is common in Karnataka because women are not given fluids after delivery. Their blood becomes thicker leading to this condition.
It all starts off in a tiny classroom adjoining the museum. Dr Shankar or members of his team first bring in a real skull. Next comes a real specimen of the human brain. If you are not too light-hearted, feel free to touch and feel. Once you are over the chills running down your spine, your guide will show you the parts of the brain and their functions. Did you know, an adult brain weighs around 1.2 to 1.4 kg?
Stepping into a huge white room full of brain samples of various sizes gives you a sense of creepiness. Then it hits you that once these brains were living and thinking; little did they know that they will be preserved in glass jars and will be on show for years to come.

You can see glimpses from across the animal kingdom here. There’s a tiny chicken brain, brains of a duck, mouse, rat, and a cow. Animal brains too have similar emotions as those of humans but the number of neurons are very different. For instance, a human has 86,000 million neurons compared to 200 million in rats and 6,376 in monkeys.
You then move onto fetuses and trace the beginning of brain development in humans, including those that tragically fail to develop a brain – a condition called anencephaly.

Head injuries
And if that isn’t eerie enough, there are brains with head injuries that have suffered intra-cerebral hemorrhage or parts of the spinal cord that were injured. Often persons who meet with an accident can’t remember what had happened before or during the accident.
In the tour, Dr Shankar or his team member show samples of a similar brain, which had probably lost its memory as the fibres going to the frontal cortex were disconnected.

Then come an array of brains that have been damaged with conditions like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Cerebral Palsy. Others are of accident victims, many of who could have easily been saved if only they had a helmet or a seatbelt on. Now that’s some lesson on road safety.
There are two brains that have shrunk in size to an extent that they seem like miniatures. These were brains of Alzheimer’s patients whose nerves had dried and the size had shrunk.
There are those with abscesses that are commonly caused by infections that enter the brain when you clean ears with pins or pencils. And in the end are specimens with neuro-infections such as tapeworm eggs that affect your brain or the amoeba that brings death should you inhale it in an unhygienic swimming pool.
If you plan to visit this mind-boggling museum, make sure you plan it on Wednesday or Saturday. They have guided tours on those days. The entry remains free. It sure does make you think about the one vital organ that does all the thinking.

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.