Driven by IMAGE DRIVERS (India)

Photography

Project Swashbuckler

There are motorcycles and then there are motorcycles – and then there’s the GS.

Over the years our teams have ridden and used many a motorcycle but when it was time to choose our first ever ‘project motorcycle’ for Image Drivers ( India ), it had to be the BMW R1250GS.

Watch the Project Teaser!

(scroll down for full film)

We pulled out all the stops when it came to Nipun Srivastava’s beloved new steed. We called in trained technicians from multiple mechanical disciplines to lend a hand with our build. This build was to be an intense one as the challenge before us was not just to outfit the motorcycle from start to finish, within 24 hours, we were to do it with an entire camera crew from @thenirvanateam pointing their lenses at the motorcycle and all the parts we had got for it!

Swashbuckler_GS Series Launch Image

It had to be the GS.

Everything had to happen like clockwork and right from the start, it didn’t. Early, on the morning of the BMW build, we got to the workshop at 5am, hoping to start by 6 but guess what, the shutters to the shop had jammed shut and refused to open. It took us the better part of an hour to figure out how to jimmy open the damn thing. We got it done, eventually.

Ready to load

Getting ready to load up!

Inside our workshop for the day, the boys from thenirvanateam got to doing what they do best, setting up all the motorcycle, camera and tooling gear required for the marathon assembly and video shoot which was about to start.

Here’s a list of stuff that we planned to get on the bike that day:

  1. Lower Crash Guards
  2. Sump Guard/Bash Plate
  3. Front axle Slider
  4. Side Stand Foot Enlarger
  5. Windscreen Reinforcement
  6. Brake cylinder Guard, Rear
  7. Rear brake Reservoir Guard
  8. EVO Tank Ring
  9. Daypack Tank Bag
  10. Gear Shift Lever
  11. Denali Light Mount
  12. Denali D4 V2 TriOptic – Wiring and Install
  13. Upper Crash Bars
  14. Rear Slider For Drive Shaft
  15. Aero ABS Pannier System
  16. Adventure Rack for Top Case
  17. Adapter Plate for Top Case
  18. Urban ABS Top Case

Each of these parts was handpicked by Nipun and provided by SW-Motech, Denali Electronics and the heros behind making our vision for the GS possible, the folks at BIG BAD BIKES India!

We caught the bull by its horns and started off with mounting the biggies – the lower crash bars and sump guard from SW-Motech. Then came the quickies – the front axel slider, quick lock tank ring and the side stand enlarger, then came the trickies – the windscreen reinforcements and wire routing for the LEDs.

SW DE BBB

Lower Crash Bars, Sump Guard, Windscreen Reinforcements, Axle Sliders & Side Stand Enlarger.

(Click on an image to see it up close)

Along the way, the brake cylinder and reservoir guards were also bolted on in quick succession. Fairly easy stuff.

Then came the gear shift lever from SW-Motech, which required rider input from Nipun Srivastava, who came in all decked up with his new KLIM gear, ready to show off for the cameras! (Watch the video at the bottom to check it out!)

Lunch for the team was a quick ‘Vada Pav’, which is basically an Indian veggie burger with a potato patty – our go-to snack during builds like these and while on rides.

Brake Reservoir Guard, Gear Shift Lever & Brake Cylinder Guard.

After lunch, as the lights came on again and the cameras fired up, came the job of figuring out how to mount the dutiful Denali D4 LED lights. The directions in the box are a boon but the lights were to go on in unison with the DataDim Module from Denali and also the Denali Light Mount for the R1250GS, which was to replace the crossmember on the upper crash bars from SW-Motech (phew! Just saying it out loud is a feat!), the 3-position-switch was also to be connected as we were not using the Can-Smart Controller. Not to forget the routing of wires all the way under the fuel tank cowl, making its way to the under-seat battery.

This part of the installation took time as so many bits were involved, however it was a fairly straightforward process, with a little back and forth on the routing of wires and ideal placement of the D4 light pods. We would also add a couple of S4 light pods with the help of ‘splitters’ (also provided by Denali) a few days later, so the time the boys took painstakingly snaking the wiring through, helped us bolt the S4s on in a jiffy!

Denali D4 V2 TriOptics all lit up with the new Denali S4s in tandem.

Finally then, as the Sun went under, came the luggage systems. Nipun had chosen the stunning new Aero ABS semi rigid panniers for his steed, an unconventional choice for the GS, but he swears by them as he’d been using the earlier version of the same boxes for years on his Kawasaki Versys 650, check out the Kwacker here: Sport Tourer for the Soul.

The Aero ABS panniers mount onto the new PRO Side Carriers from SW-Motech, even with the boxes off the bike, the PRO carriers look quite smart, giving the motorcycle a real rugged look.

The stunning Aero ABS Side-Pannier System from SW-Motech!

After the panniers, the Adventure Rack went on, with the adapter plate for the Urban ABS TopCase. This took surprisingly long as we found ourselves completely flummoxed by the adapter plate and its mountings atop the Adventure rack. Looking back, it was probably the non-stop 15 hours of standing and continuous working on the motorcycle that had taken its toll on the team, we stopped. We pulled out all product literature and read through the mounting sequence line by line. Our lead technician finally figured it out as the clock struck 11pm (remember, we started this gig at 6am).

And then the Top Case went on as easy as butter melting on toast. Check it out below!

The Adventure Rack & Urban ABS Top Case in action.

Finally, our list was complete and we rechecked every part installed on the motorcycle one last time and that was it.

PRO TIP: If, ever, like us, you are crazy enough to attempt installing so many parts on a GS all at once, take it from us, install the Tank Bag and Tank Ring absolutely at the end. We spent a lot of time installing the tank ring and then repeatedly taking it off to access the space under the fuel tank cowl.

The Daypack Tank Bag from SW-Motech.

Trust us, it sounds way less intense than it really was. Multiple takes and retakes for the video crew, actually trying to figure out how to mount the parts without losing any bits and bobs in the process. Bagging and tagging each bit to come off the stock bike, behind the scenes – it had all been a true marathon. But we delivered on our promise and Nipun got to ride his steed home that night, fully loaded.

Wondering how it all turned out?

Check out the short video below to catch the full reveal and see how @thenirvanateam went about their job.

Over 20 hours of painstaking work, showcased in just 4 minutes, enjoy!

Do share this post with your buddies and feel free to comment and join the conversation!


Motorcycle built by The Nirvana Team. Accessories provided by SW-MOTECH & DENALI Electronics. Project supported by BIG BAD BIKES.



Malabar Calling

……..Ah, Kerala.

Just the thought of traveling through this South Indian State conjures up images of stunning backwaters, epic roads, coconut palms, fabulous food, mind blowing beaches and well, tropical beauty at its best!

Photographer Nipun Srivastava took a week-long motorcycle ride with the Kawasaki Versys 650, riding through Goa, Karnataka and finally spending some time among the lagoons of Northern Kerala.

Feast   your   eyes !

Malabar Calling

Malabar Calling – A stunning Kettuvalam Houseboat at cruise on a typical lagoon.

“These refreshing vistas are what greeted me as I took a stop at Bekal, in Northern Kerala. After having ridden my steed (the Kawasaki Versys 650) through Goa, then Mangalore (Karnataka) and finally into Kerala, I was happy to have covered over a thousand kilometers. What’s more is that I was now well and truly in Malabar Country. A place known for its food, culture, temples, forts, beaches, resort hotels and of course – the serene backwaters of the Arabian Sea.

Sunset on the Backwaters
Backwater Sunset!

A sunset cruise over the (yet) noncommercial backwaters of Nileshwar is so nourishing for the soul, one needs to experience it to believe it. A two day drive or ride from Mumbai or Pune or a day’s hop from Bangalore, Nileshwar is your surest way of sampling the Kettuvalam houseboats and Kerala Culture whilst being spared the madness of usual Kerala hot spots which are known to be overflowing with tourists at most times.

As one rides up to the backwaters over idyllic little bridges and through lush coconut groves, you come across a dozen or so houseboat operators dotted along the inner waters of Nileshwar and around.

A typical sunset cruise.
Queen of the water!

Take your pick, most these boats are similar in look and feel, however we suggest you pick Lotus Houseboats or Bekal Ripples as your cruise of choice. Their vessels are good and make for a better nautical experience.

The boats have onboard kitchens, bedrooms with air-conditioning and open dining spaces fit for a family, couples or even a group of friends. Prices range from $50 to $1000 depending on the length of your cruise.

Cruise choices range from six-hour day cruises to short two-hour sunset cruises and you can even stay aboard these vessels overnight as they make their way, at leisure, from Nileshwar to Valliaparamba.

Sunset Hues

Sunset Hues – Serene waters of the Kerala Lagoons.

When you ride hard, you must eat well. In this part of India, food is sublime. From seafood to the choicest meats, even vegetarian selections, prepared with tongue tingling spices fit for royalty – it’s a real treat here!

Pardon my lack of Instagram professionalism as I conveniently excused myself from shooting images of my food. In the moment, I preferred pouncing on the plates over pulling out the lenses 😀

Instead, here’s a look at where we stayed.

Refreshing stays in Kerala!
Taj Bekal Resort and Spa – epic accommodation!

Kerala is home to some of the most idyllic Hotel Resorts and Spa Retreats in India. Taj Bekal, our anchor-point on this motorcycle ride, was the perfect home away from home.

Genuinely, what a place to spend the better part of a week. Taking a stroll under lush coconut palms, spending an afternoon at Asia’s largest Spa (really!), taking a moonlit raft ride on the (in-premises) river, sampling food at all four restaurants, spending time at the beach and in the fabulously put together rooms – we did everything this place had to offer. 

Fabulous beachfront at Bekal!
Taj Bekal Beachfront!

At Taj Bekal, I’ve stumbled upon my new stress-buster getaway itinerary: Take a flight to Mangalore, get the hotel to drive me to Bekal, spend three blissful nights here and then take a flight back to the grind!

Just being at Bekal eases the senses, surrounds you with soothing shades of green and blue as the sea breeze and brown sand take turns tickling you head to toe. It really is my go-to beach holiday now!

Bekal - Stressbuster of sorts!
Bekal – Stress buster of sorts!

Now then, with the Arabian Sea and the leisurely Lagoons of Bekal behind me, I was in the mood for some good motorcycling. I now set my target as Chikmagalur, in Karnataka.

After what I had just experienced in Kerala, I didn’t expect too much to see on my way inland. Boy was I wrong, motorcycling in India is truly something to write home about!

Riding away from the coast and into the Western Ghat Mountain range in South Western India, I was left dumbfounded by what I saw on my way.

Kudremukh, Karnataka.
Zipping through the Western Ghats on the Kawasaki Versys 650!

Kudremukh National Park, this is a protected part of the Western Ghat Mountain range in the state of Karnataka, India.

With just a single, exquisitely laid, super smooth and curvaceous road cutting through, Kudremukh has to be one of the most heavenly roads to ride on in India.

Kudremukh in the distance.
Kudremukh Peak & National Park visible in the distance, as seen from Mullayangiri.

Crossing over the Western Ghat Mountains, the roads now cut through lush Tea Gardens and Coffee plantations. The weather was now noticeably cooler and the roads were empty as can be!

The smooth hum of my motorcycle was the perfect companion as we took turn after turn into the overwhelming green surrounds of District Chikmagalur.

Lush Plantations of Chikmagalur!
Lush Plantations of Chikmagalur!

Chikmagalur is the birthplace of coffee in India. Legend has it that a Sufi Saint on his way back from pilgrimage to Mecca, carried a few raw coffee beans as he transited through Yemen. 

Those few beans are what started it all, as far as Coffee plantation in this region goes. Fascinating!

Approaching Chikmagalur!
Approaching Chikmagalur!

As you climb down from the Western Ghat Mountains, you hit Chikmagalur Town in the foothills. It’s almost as if Chikmagalur is cradled by the mighty Ghats, sitting pretty at a height of 3500 ft.

I made my way through the town, on one side was the semi-urban hustle and on the other, the mammoth mountain of Mullayangiri – the highest mountain peak in the state of Karnataka (6000 ft).

Riding to the top of Mullayangiri was my next target. It had been a while since I had ridden a motorcycle above 5000 ft in Nepal and Ladakh. I wondered how far up the mountain one could reach with the Versys 650.

Atop Mullayanagiri!
On top of the world!! (Well, just Karnataka really.)
The Kawasaki Versys 650 – Atop Mullayanagiri – The Highest Mountain Peak of Karnataka, India.

Getting to the top of this mountain was relatively easy. Although the extremely narrow road with tight hairpins and vehicles moving in both directions really got the blood flowing!

Just a couple clicks short of the top, the road vanishes completely. Hereon only 4×4 jeeps hired by tourist groups take on the last little bit of the climb as it is completely off-road. Well, Jeeps and motorcycles 😉

There should be a paved road all the way soon enough but for now, it was a two kilometer long off road track with steep fall-offs on one side and the mountain on the other! Like I said, it got the blood flowing 😛

Road to Mullayanagiri!
Road to Mullayanagiri!

From the thick sea breeze at Bekal to the thin air atop Karnataka’s highest peak, this had been a journey of sorts. The number of different terrains I had seen on this short 2000 kilometer ride was really something.

As I rode back towards Chikmagalur town, I loaded up on the famed filter coffee and bought myself a couple kilos of beans. You need to try the blends from here, you’ll forget about the crap we drink in our cities!

I really do mean that. At the Estate run shops in Chikmagalur, you can get customized coffee blends as per your preferences. Might I add, buying freshly blended Coffee here is extremely affordable.

Homeward bound.
Homeward Bound!

Charged up on coffee, it was time to head home.

What a journey it had been – seven days, over two thousand kilometers, great food, stunning scenery, fabulous roads and so much coffee. This trip ended up being everything I’d imagined it would be and more.

Safe to say, I’m already planning another trip down South. There’s just so much more to see and experience in South India!

Until next time, I’m Nipun Srivastava, Vrooming off!”


Wow, we at The Nirvana Team can’t wait to see where Nipun head’s next and which vehicle he chooses!

We thank Taj Hotels for their exceptional support and impeccable service along the way, their Hotels and Resorts make the perfect pit stops for motorcycle touring in South India.

The Kawasaki India Versys 650 performed like a total champ on this journey, as expected. Great performance on and off the road, fully loaded and even two-up. An absolute value for money motorcycle for India!

Do tell us what you think of this photo-story by Photographer Nipun Srivastava, would you like to see more stories like this in the future? Comment down below!

Follow @Thenirvanateam on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!


 


V4 FOR THE WIN!

There are machines and there are machines. Some make you gasp in awe, some make you swoon with envy and then those which just steal your heart.

We were invited on-board the first ever track day of this track ready DUCATI PANIGALE V4, piloted by (Owner) Ashutosh Mahadik and boy, what a pleasure it was for our boys to be there in the thick of it with our favorite rider, going toe for toe in the blistering heat, humidity and uncertain weather!

DUCATI PANIGALE V4

The Ducati Panigale V4 speeds out of the first curve at Buddh International Circuit in India!

‘A new opera.’ That’s how Ducati opens its marketing pitch for the Panigale V4. With the Akrapovic full-system performance exhaust on this particular unit, there sure were a whole new set of notes ringing around the Buddh International Circuit! Spine tingling sound is one thing, the 1 to 1 power to weight ratio has this machine belting out over 225 BHP! To see this symphony in motion is to see the pinnacle of the Ducati Design team’s strongest performance yet. 

DUCATI PANIGALE V4

Symphony in motion!

“The beauty of this machine is in its handling.

Leave alone its 1103cc motor churning out 226hp! The counter rotating crankshaft gives such brilliant, planted feedback to the rider; it’s unbelievable! Kudos to Ducati for having broken all bounds in engineering and literally hitting the ball out of the park against its competition!”

That’s what owner, Ashutosh has to say about the motorcycle after his first few track sessions.

DUCATI PANIGALE V4

Ashutosh, taking all the V4 has to give!

The new range toppers for Ducati’s supersport line of motorcycles, the Panigale V4, V4S and the V4 Speciale replace the older Panigale 1299.

They say it’s the closest you can get to a Moto GP motorcycle for your money. Well, from the track-side production pillboxes on the Buddh International Circuit, we could only nod in agreement as we saw the V4 zip by with its Akras screaming in automotive ecstasy.

DUCATI PANIGALE V4
Screaming Akras!

“The Italians consistently create designs which make my heart sing, whether it is their supersports, scramblers or even the multistradas. They know exactly how to take a great design and elevate it to the next level. Every. Single. Time.

No other brand has me looking at their new launches with so much attention. I saw the Desert Sled – fell in love, saw the 959 – fell in love and now this sublime piece of V4 candy. Ducatis always have me swooning.”

DUCATI PANIGALE V4

Such a stunner – the new V4!

Safe to say, lead photographer Nipun Srivastava’s heart strings are being tugged by these stunning Ducatis left, right and center! New stablemate soon? 😉

DUCATI PANIGALE V4

Ducati reigns on the BIC!

Great aesthetics aside, the mechanical aspects of this Ducati and its power-plant are equally overwhelming, here’s a list of features on what Ducati calls the

DESMOSEDICI STRADALE ENGINE (pronounced: dez-mo-see-dee-chee)

Twin Pulse Firing Order | Rearward Rotating Crankshaft | A New Desmodromic System | Variable Intake System | A GP Derived Intake/Combustion Chamber

DUCATI PANIGALE V4

Impressed yet?

Well, here’s wishing Ashutosh a million more miles on his wheels! Cheers to your spirit man!


The Nirvana Team & www.theroadtonirvana.com, now offer bespoke photo/video-sessions at the BIC for enthusiasts looking to create a portfolio of their Racing Lifestyle at the Buddh International Circuit.

These photo-sessions include: 1. A rider profile 2. A motorcycle profile 3. Track riding images 4. Specific images requested by riders (e.g Knee/Elbow Down, Body Position images) 5. Racing Lifestyle Images.

Photography packages start at INR 49,000/- per head* (inclusive of GST) for a two day session at the BIC. (Maximum 4 riders/drivers per track day)

Video packages start at INR 75,000/- per head* (inclusive of GST) for a two day session at the BIC. (One rider/Driver per track day only)


DUCATI PANIGALE V4

Be the star of your own story!


Email us on hotshots@theroadtonirvana.com for enquiries.


 


On Track!

Earlier this year, our lead – Nipun Srivastava hit the Buddh International Circuit race track (with his lenses) and he says he fell in love with the Ducati 959 Panigale. With the attention that motorcycle got from his camera, it isn’t hard to believe!

Ducati 959 Panigale

Queen of the pits! The Ducati 959 Panigale oozes sex appeal!

Say hello also to the rider in the saddle – Ronak Gupta. On his second time at the BIC, Ronak shaved over 20 seconds off his initial lap timings around the track!

Ducati 959 Panigale

Ronak, taming the Ducati on the track!

The Buddh International Circuit race track has become very popular with riders who like to stretch the muscles of their super-sport beasts in a safe and well organized manner. The BIC track (located in Greater Noida), is the only one of its kind in India and now hosts track days open to all on a regular basis.

Full safety gear is a must for riders looking to push limits of their machines here.

Ducati 959 Panigale

Hell for leather!

This race track offers riders the perfect opportunity to hone their high speed motorcycling skills. Riders are seen coming in from all over the country with their motorcycles for the track days held here most often on weekends.

Ducati 959 Panigale

Ronak gets his knee down!

Nipun, our lead, made some new friends here while shooting on the track. Here are also some photos of a Yamaha R1 and a Kawasaki ZX10R.

Yamaha R1

Whacking open the throttle just as they get out of Turn-1 at the BIC!

Riders are seen pushing their motorcycles to the absolute limits of performance and technique here. Time after time, they correct their body positions, race lines and chisel off seconds from their overall lap times. It’s all very exhilarating stuff!

Yamaha R1

Leaning into the chicane!

The motorcycles are also well taken care of at BIC, safe parking is offered to riders for their machines. Space for riders to spread out and take a breather after completing hot laps is available just next to the pits.

Kawasaki ZX10R

The Kawasaki ZX10R commands the pit at sundown.

For advanced and new riders alike, training here is known to be extremely beneficial for enhancement of their motoring skills.

There are various training schools which also offer training to enthusiasts for taking the track on in a safe and responsible manner.

Kawasaki ZX10R

In it to win it!

The Nirvana Team & http://www.theroadtonirvana.com, now offer bespoke photo/video-sessions at the BIC for enthusiasts looking to create a portfolio of their Racing Lifestyle at the Buddh International Circuit.

These photo-sessions include: 1. A rider profile 2. A motorcycle profile 3. Track riding images 4. Specific images requested by riders (e.g Knee/Elbow Down, Body Position images) 5. Racing Lifestyle Images.

Ducati 959 Panigale

Book your Racing Lifestyle Sessions with us! Email us – hotshots@theroadtonirvana.com!

Big Bike - Empty Street - Panigale 959.Big Bike - Empty Street - Panigale 959.

Big Bike - Empty Street - Panigale 959.

DUCATI – Racing Lifestyle

Photography packages start at INR 49,000/- per head* (inclusive of GST) for a two day session at the BIC. (Maximum 4 riders/drivers per track day)

Video packages start at INR 75,000/- per head* (inclusive of GST) for a two day session at the BIC. (One rider/Driver per track day only)

Be the star of your own story!

*T&Cs apply.

On Two Wheels with Hero MotoCorp!

Twenty motorcycles were on their way to us while we huddled and belted out one concept after another, tailored to each individual product according to its placement on the Indian market. We at TheNirvanaTeam never shy away from challenges. Whether it be taking the right risks to get our clients the visuals they deserve or going beyond the boundary set by industries in exploring unique creative possibilities, whatever it may be – we are ready.

On Two Wheels with Hero MotoCorp!On Two Wheels with Hero MotoCorp!

Hero Motocorp

The worlds largest two wheeler manufacturer told us they wanted our boys and girls to design and execute productions for each and every product they made. Every single two wheeler in their portfolio, yes. Let that sink in.

We’ve shot everything from supercars to superbikes but the sheer scale of this photo-shoot was a force to be reckoned with. All the while, our team maintained constant cohesion with our client and with Dir. Nipun Srivastava in the lead, we were soon ready for the mammoth photo-shoot as the motorcycles arrived at our studio in Pune. Bear in mind, this was not to be a simple exercise executed within the comfortable surrounds of our studio. This was to be a fully location based exercise with a unique location chosen for each two wheeled product that we were about to shoot.

As it often happens, all the planning in the world can still not prepare one for the challenges the proverbial open road holds. In early February of 2017, after a solid two months of rock solid planning, scouting and resource allocation we had already endured some serious challenges, unexpected hurdles and managed to swiftly accommodate any new changes that were expected of us professionally.

Demonetization in India had come and gone, moreover, pollution norms in the country were set to change. Our photo-shoot, its time-line and most of our planning were thrown out of whack right when we thought we were ready to start production! In the face of mounting logistical odds, professional challenges and uncertain production dynamics, our team’s unwavering resolve and sheer dedication to our work really shone. TheNirvanaTeam was up to every task, surmounted every challenge small or big with an extremely lean production team to produce the results you will now be able to see here and probably have seen on Hero MotoCorp’s Social Media Channels in the recent past.

Here’s a look at some of the images we produced and also how Hero MotoCorp used images produced on this mammoth Photo-shoot.

Enjoy!

Starting off! We hit the beach in our signature Nirvana style! Shooting the Splendor Pro Classic for Hero was a lot of fun as we got onto the beach waaay to early and spent our time dodging the tide again and again! Trying various points of views, playing with ample natural light, et al!

Splendor Pro Classic by TheNirvanaTeam

Splendor Pro Classic by TheNirvanaTeam

Finally, a little after sunset, we had all our shots!

We took the Achiever 150 up a winding road early on the morning of the shoot. Freakish cold, smooth roads, whistling winds and a mind blowing Sunrise made for the perfect set of pictures for this motorcycle from Hero MotoCorp!

The Achiever 150 by TheNirvanaTeam

The Achiever 150 by The Nirvana Team

Hitting the highway with the Xtreme Sports motorcycle was a little tricky as our timing had to be just right. We needed perfect light on the road that ran through a narrow gorge, traffic had to be managed and the photography had to be executed – all in tandem! We did it!

The Xtreme Sports by TheNirvanaTeam

The Xtreme Sports by TheNirvanaTeam

While shooting the Splendor Pro, we head across a whole riverbed! Took the vehicle through a lot of dust and grime to reach our little oasis that was chosen for the shoot this evening. Our boys spent a lot of time cleaning the vehicle and only then were we ready to shoot! She looks as striking as ever! All that pain and hard work coupled with being on location finally paid off with perfect lighting. Who needs composites? :-p

Splendor Pro by TheNirvanaTeam

Splendor Pro by TheNirvanaTeam

On the Hero Pleasure, a surprisingly zippy little scooter, we found ourselves at a unique location. An unmarked patch of undulating roads, smooth as butter, surrounded with burned down dry grass on either side of the road welcomed us with the sun setting just behind giving us perfect light. And then we got a shot that was just right!

On Two Wheels with Hero MotoCorp!On Two Wheels with Hero MotoCorp!

The Hero Pleasure by TheNirvanaTeam

For the Splendor iSmart 110, we drove through a wooded forest extremely early on the morning of our shoot. Prepping the bike in the nick of time, just before the sun shone through the leafless trees in the background, we got our shot on this day. One of our absolute favourites, this!

Splendor iSmart 110 by TheNirvanaTeam

Splendor iSmart 110 by TheNirvanaTeam

The Hero Hunk was taken off road and onto a rocky outcrop atop a small mountain range. We had a tough time finding the right location for this one before the final shoot, as we wanted a rugged feel and perfect sunlight gracing the image. A few faintly visible mountains in the background help complete the look we envisioned for this motorcycle!

Hunk by TheNirvanaTeam

Hunk by TheNirvanaTeam

Can a scooter go off the road? Sure it can! The massively powerful Maestro Edge had no issue swiftly mounting a grassy hillock in the southern part of District Lavasa. What a photogenic scooter, this! We had a ball looking at the results from this photo-shoot.

 

Maestro Edge!

Maestro Edge by TheNirvanaTeam

With the Karizma we head a little further up the west coast and shot the motorcycles on a rocky outcrop which would be submerged underwater every time the tide came in! Needless to say, this was a race against time as we had to get our shots and in a short time frame, with the sun setting perfectly in the background! Well, we got it!

Karizma by TheNirvanaTeam

Karizma by TheNirvanaTeam

Phew! That’s just half the vehicles we shot for Hero MotoCorp on this project! Let’s move on from the shooting to the usage of the images.

Here’s a quick look at how the images were used on Hero MotoCorp social media channels.

xtreme sportsSplendor ProMaestro Edge

KarizmaPassion ProAchiever 150

On Two Wheels with Hero MotoCorp & TheNirvanaTeam!

Seen above are (from top left) the Xtreme Sports, Splendor Pro, Maestro Edge, Karizma, Passion Pro and the Achiever 150 motorcycles/scooters. This being our first photo-shoot with commuter segment motorcycles in India, it was a steep learning curve! All vehicles ranged between the 100cc to 250cc category, safe to say, these vehicles form the foundation of commuter motorcycling in India.

It was a fantastic experience for our entire team, planning, executing over 20 unique location based shoots and delivering content in an extremely tight timeline. Our clients, Hero MotoCorp Ltd, their entire marketing team and their local (Pune) dealer network have been a dream to work with.


We salute our “Heros” of The Nirvana Team!

Kaustubh Khare: Assistant Photographer and also in-charge of keeping the vehicles shoot ready.

Vivek Bhandari & Team: Logistics Expert and in-charge of vehicle transportation.

Sadhana Saxena: Vehicle Security and Safe-Keeping.

Vaishali Chandan: Planning and Support.

Nipun Srivastava: Shoot Director, Lead Photographer and overall Team Lead.


 


Sport Tourer for the Soul!

Kawasaki, Ducati, BMW, MV Agusta, Benelli, Triumph and even Royal Enfield have upped their motorcycle game in India (or have had too!).

We’re the next big market for motorcycle makers in the world. We’ve got the money and we’ve got the trails too! Most of all, we’re buying new motorcycles like there’s no tomorrow! The markets have been going crazy over the past year, so much so that the Motorcycle we’re bringing to you today already has a refreshed version out there!

So, which motorcycle should you get if you want to see the country on two wheels?

Let’s say you’re a practical rider, someone who’s not stingy but you’re one who likes to be smart about your passionate decisions too, what bike to buy? 😉

Sport Tourer for the Soul! The Kawasaki Versys 650!Take a keen look at the Kawasaki Versys 650. A perfectly priced sports touring motorcycle for the Indian market.

An 800,000 Rupee ticket to premium motorcycling freedom. Buy it and you join the big league, kit it out well and you can ride the length and breadth of India, Nepal and Bhutan – all without a passport and over all sorts of terrain, roads and climate!

The 649cc engine on the Versys is all but battle tested, rock solid and super smooth over the rev range, gives a sweet straight power delivery up to a healthy 69 BHP. It can do 120 kmph all day long, comfortably, getting you where you need to be easily. The torque (64Nm @ 7000 rpm) too is tweaked in favour of the rider travelling with a little load – whether that be your luggage over a long weekend, significant other or both.

It has an ABS and an adjustable suspension setup too! Pretty freakin’ cool at this price point, we can tell you that.

Nipun Srivastava on the Versys 650 ABS!

Nipun Srivastava, our resident adventurer, has been painstakingly kitting out a Versys 650, using it on his photography missions and weekend rides alike.     

How the Kawasaki Versys 650 is the perfect beginner premium motorcycle to take on the Indian road, we’ll let him break it down for you.

He’ll take you through everything, from what accessories go well with this motorcycle to what one must watch out for when on the Versys 650. Enjoy 🙂 .

“”You’ll be mistaken if you think the Versys 650 is a small motorcycle.”

This Kawasaki is meaty enough to keep you full for a lifetime of comfortable riding, customized to your specific style.

Me, I’m more a sucker for exploration and seeing the country on tour. Piece by piece, I like to pick up areas which look promising on the map and then head out to check if my research was any good. Often times the research goes out of the window when on a major ride, so what I need then is a reliable machine which can get me through some serious stuff.

The 650cc parallel twin on the Versys is known to be a bullet proof engine. It has been used by Kawasaki on a number of its top-selling motorcycles like the Ninja 650 and the ER6N. Right there one knows that if maintained well, this engine will go a long long way. The gearbox is a tad notchy for my liking but one soon gets used to it.

The Versys 650 is quite big for its credentials.Take the Versys 650 almost anywhere!

Height-wise, the Versys 650 sits right in the middle. If you are too tall or too short, give it a proper test ride before you consider buying it. Lowering kits are available for this Versys but they are almost always underwhelming in performance and often lead to ground clearance issues, especially while riding two – up. For those who hover around 6ft or just under, the seating on the Versys is just right. The seat, well that’s relatively comfortable too.

All fueled up, she weighs in at just under 215 kgs.

Good suspension, that’s what makes the Versys an absolute game changer at this price point. The Versys boasts of Showa’s Separate Function front forks which are manually adjustable for Rebound and Pre-load. The rear mono-shock can be adjusted with just the twist of a knob, while seated even! Although I find the front a little soft for my liking, I am yet to fully explore all the possibilities these front forks offer. I’m pretty sure there’s a setting somewhere which will work perfectly – I just need to find it.

Versys 650, the ideal Sport Tourer for India?

So then, on paper, the Versys 650 makes a very healthy case for itself in India. What more can one ask for then? Read on 🙂 .

In this Sport-Touring motorcycle segment, one major factor is the accessories one can mount on one’s steed. It is here that the Versys really excels. There are just so many options from reputed brands like SW Motech, Hepco Becker, Givi, Evotech and even Kawasaki themselves that one is truly spoilt for choice.

Each Versys then is sort of a blank canvas. A very capable and smart blank canvas.

One can take the Versys from being an intercity shuttle to a relatively tough machine, able to head out on to the road and even off it to a great extent. All one needs is the right set of accessories mounted and you can push the Versys 650 trail-side. On the trails, the 650 is a little top heavy if you’re running a full tank of gas but if you know what you’re doing, the motorcycle does well to get you across a dusty, gravel topped trail without any difficulty. One sore point, the ABS can’t be turned off. You’d think Kawasaki could have thrown in a switch for that just for good measure. Alas.

Holds its own, trail-side!Trail-side with the Versys 650!

The accessories you choose for your motorcycle need to be on point, always. They must be geared towards the kind of riding you intend to do.

 

Here’s a list, a brief description and a final GO or NO on the accessories we chose for the Versys 650.

Versys accessories line up - Click to Enlarge.

Our accessories line-up:

Radiator Guard: By far the most necessary accessory for your Versys is the Radiator Guard that you mount. It must be light yet strong and be ready to take a subtle thrashing every time you hit a rough patch. On the Versys, this is important as the front tire tends to send small stones flying into the radiator as a routine. We chose the Evotech Performance Radiator Guard as it is extremely light (aluminium), an absolute breeze to mount and covers the full front of the Radiator assembly and not just the fins. An absolute GO from us.

Guard that Radiator baby! Evotech Performance

Guard that Radiator Baby!

Also seen are the SW Motech Sump Guard, The Hepco-Becker Crash Bars and the SW Motech Fork & Swing-arm Sliders.

Engine/Sump Guard: Very important if you ride long distances on Indian roads. This guard protects the engine sump, the bottom of your exhaust system and more importantly, the vulnerable O2 sensor located just next to the engine sump. We chose the SW Motech Engine Guard as design wise this thing is a masterpiece. It presents an absolutely smooth surface to the ground so as not to catch on anything and cause damage. It’s made of aluminium, hence is lightweight and the rubber mounting bushes save you from any vibration/resonance on higher revs. GO for this.

Crash Bars: These cover the lower part of your front fairings and the sides of your engine heads. We chose the Hepco Becker Engine Guard for the Versys 650 as it provides very good coverage, has perfect clearances with the fairings and fits in seamlessly with the design language on the Versys 650. It is also very easy to bolt on. It is rock solid once bolted on correctly. An absolute GO from us!

Front Axle & Rear Swing-arm Sliders: We went with the SW Motech sliders as they seem to be the most polished and easily available sliders in India. Once on, you almost forget they’re there. GO.

Chain Lubrication: No one will tell you this before you buy a premium motorcycle but your chain is the key to a good ride. It is also a part which demands constant attention when riding religiously. We’ve gone ahead and mounted a Versys Edition Scottoiler V-System on the bike so as to keep our chain lubricated at all times. Giving us the peace of mind to carry on riding regardless of conditions. This is a GO if you don’t want the hassle of manually lubing your chain.

Note: The single sided lubricator, included with the Scottoiler, does an OK job. We suggest you use the dual sided lubricator for consistent lubrication.

Barkbusters hand-guards. As purposeful as they come!

Barkbusters hand-guards. As purposeful as they come!

Hand Guards: This is a requirement only if you tend to test your skills every now and then, which obviously increases your chances of taking a tumble or having your brake/clutch lever smacked out of shape. We got the Barkbusters mounted on our Versys with the VPS guard cover. Moreover we added the Barkbuster DRLs atop the cover to increase the visual footprint of the vehicle and add style to the overall look. The Hand Guards are a GO from us, the cover and DRLs you can do without.

Dazzle Baby! The Denali D4 Auxiliary lamps.Dazzle Baby! The Denali D4 Auxiliary lamps.

Auxiliary Lighting: We think this is important. Also, it is one of the most confusing and cost intensive investments you can make on your vehicle. Important because in our riding conditions, one needs to be visible. Confusing because of the sheer number of choices out there – Baja, Denali, SW Motech and even Chinese knock-offs – it’s a tough call to take. We went with the trusted Denali D4s for our Versys and give it a healthy 7/10 on its daylight and night time performance. GO for the Denali D4s as they are simple, hardy and get the job done effortlessly. Just look at them dazzle!

Tank Pads: We’ve mounted the Tech Spec Snakeskin for the Versys 650. Industry leading, very good performance and absolute value for money. GO.

Tank Bag(s): We looked at them all and then settled for SW Motech. We got two – The Yukon 90 for when it gets wet and the Micro for short intercity bursts. Both mount to the same tank ring and can handle rough riding. The Yukon is ugly and a pain to use but is waterproof, the Micro is a breeze to use but is a tad small, even for something called a micro. SW Motech, Givi, Hepco Becker or even Giant loop, the choices are endless out there! GO.

SW Motech Quick Lock EVO Aero ABS Panniers

Travel light, travel right! The SW Motech Aero Semi Rigid Panniers.

Luggage: We’ve mounted the SW Motech (Quick Lock EVO) Aero ABS Semi Rigid Panniers. These are cost effective, let you carry more weight (8 kgs per side) and look bloody amazing on the Versys 650. We give these a 10/10 for looks and an 8/10 for functionality. GO for it!

Side Stand Foot Enlarger: This is probably the most underrated accessory for your bike. Our SW Motech side stand foot enlarger helps keep the bike steady on soft terrain, like a boss. Be it on a beach or a mushy trail, the motorcycle stands steady.

OEM Accessories: The Kawasaki Gear Indicator and the DC Output Socket. The DC Socket is an absolute GO. You can live without the Gear Indicator, moreover it comes console integrated in the 2017 Versys 650.

Accessory Loaded!

That takes care of the accessories list on our Versys 650! Phew!

Why didn’t we go with OEM Kawasaki Accessories? Two reasons, one – they are freakishly expensive and two – they do not inspire confidence when on the road.

VERSYS 650 – ISSUES

Every machine has its quirks and the Kawasaki Versys 650 is known to have a few too.

  1. For starters, Kawasaki India has recently gone solo and split its operations with Bajaj Auto Ltd. This boils down to a smaller service network and in places service that’s not so great. Moreover, basic spares have become slightly tougher to come by.
  2. On the road, some riders claim to have bent their rims while riding over large pot holes at speed. We faced no such issues, yet.
  3. The stock tires (Dunlops) are geared towards delivering high mileage only. They perform badly on dry roads, wet roads, good roads and bad roads alike. We exchanged ours for Metzeler Sportec M7 RRs after the first thousand clicks.
  4. The stock headlamps are weak. You NEED an auxiliary light setup. Alternatively, we hear, Cyclops make good replacement LED Bulbs for the Versys.
  5. Versys 650’s jerky gearbox takes getting used to but becomes smoother after the second/third service.
  6. Typical parallel-twin behaviour – the handlebar vibrates when getting off the mark, can make a novice question his/her intuition when new to the motorcycle.
  7. The Horn is puny, in India, one needs to get something with more punch.
  8. Lack of a healthy exhaust note. The Versys 650 sounds like a refrigerator. Sorry.

If you notice, I’m picking nits here. In the end, the Versys 650 is a damn fine proposition for Indian roads. 😉

Just leave!

VERSYS 650 – THINGS TO LOVE!

  1. An absolutely bulletproof engine and a suspension setup which is sublime.
  2. It comes touring ready. If you had to, you could take the Versys 650 out of the box and hit the road straight away. It would do well.
  3. Short running in period of 1000 kilometers. After that, get new oil and kiss 9000 rpm all you want.
  4. Comfortable service intervals of 5000 kilometers. This will irk the mile-munchers but most riders will be fine.
  5. Acceptable cost of maintenance. It’s not a super expensive vehicle to keep in ride-ready condition.

Overall the Versys 650 is damn easy to live with.

Easy Kawasaki!Easy Kawasaki!

This motorcycle provides the perfect mix of reliability, mechanical prowess and is very accessory friendly.

The Versys 650 delivers decent power, nothing crazy or too intimidating, so as to get your soul the sport tourer it needs!””Sport Tourer for the Soul!

Happy riding!

We hope you’ve enjoyed our story on the Versys 650 from Kawasaki. Tell us what you feel about this motorcycle and whether you would consider buying it.

If you already own one, let us know how it’s going for you and how far you’ve travelled on your steed!

Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and let’s start a conversation!


Versys 650 ABS – 2017 Update

There’s a new kid on the block and it’s more or less the same as the old kid.

The New 2017 Kawasaki Versys 650 is now green in colour, has a console integrated gear indicator, sports a giant Versys decal on the fairing and that’s about it. The Engine (now BS IV compliant), Gearbox and Suspension remain the same on the new Versys as well.


Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. Views represented are personal opinions of the rider based on his experience with the vehicle showcased.

Vehicle: The Versys 650 ABS (2016)

Photography for this piece has been delivered by our Lead Photographer – Nipun Srivastava and assistant photographer Kaustubh Khare.

Model: Our resident adventurer – Nipun Srivastava.


 


Chasing Clouds

Our resident champ takes the new Mahindra Mojo – Tourer Edition out for a spin!

Join Nipun Srivastava as he chases his vision and talks about the striking New Edition Mojo by Mahindra Two Wheelers.

Mojo RHS Side Profile

The Mahindra Mojo Tourer Edition

Fully loaded with Saddle Bags, a Tank bag, Custom mounted Fog lamps, an engine guard, Pannier mounts, Tail carrier and a Mobile Phone Holder which works!


“You know what they say, “If you don’t ride in the rain, you don’t ride at all.”

I’ve been shooting photographs for the better part of a decade now. In that time, I’ve travelled long distances on two wheelers loaded up with my stuff, most of it being camera gear, since my motivation for travel was second only to my need of creating images wherever I went. – Showing it off, once I was back. Stands to reason then, that vehicles have played a major part in my journey. I can’t even remember the last time I took a flight to get somewhere for a shoot.

When Mahindra Two Wheelers came to me with the Mojo, I was intrigued to say the least. I was to take a short trip with the Mojo Tourer Edition and see what it was like. For me, it’s the little things that take a motorcycle from being a mere machine to becoming a true companion on a journey. Power is good to have and we all love style but a motorcycle that takes care of the rider is one that will truly stand the test and taste of a motorcycle rider.

Rider & Mojo 1 (Story Shot)

Found my Mojo!

Each time I ready myself for a journey, it starts with nervous excitement. Nervous because no bike ride is the same. Each trip has its own charm and challenge, no matter what direction one takes. On this ride, The Mojo Tourer Edition was to be my companion. A motorcycling date of sorts!

The motorcycle was a black, one pot, 300 cc, twin exhaust, fully kitted out and ready for action Mojo Tourer Edition. With new saddle bags, a tank bag, a handlebar mounted phone holder and two new super seductive fog lamps, this version of the Mojo had us all under its spell right from the start! Phew!

Loaded up and turning heads!

As I walked to the motorcycle, I could hear Santana’s Black Magic Woman chiming at the back of my head. Only fair I thought, this Mojo seemed like a very snazzy slice of motoring kit.

Parking lot silence is blissful. Especially when you get to break it with a sweet sounding twin exhaust. A turn of the key, a flick of the ignition, the mellow hum of the fuel pump and then the ripe cherry of a starter button. The Mojo rumbled to life and settled into its characteristic note.

“It sounds bloody good”, I said to myself.

Time to ride out!

Six gears will let you own the better part of 100 kmph. As will the linear and pretty much effortless power delivery to get your riding day started right.

1 Extra Shot.jpg

Purpose built for the long haul

The Indian monsoon is at its peak here in Pune, a dreary grey and overcast sky had me wondering if there was any point in riding out on this day. I love golden light you see, I love the setting Sun, especially in my photography. Still, a day of good motorcycling trumps almost everything else really. We dodged the rain quite a few times on this day but eventually it caught up with us and I decided it was time to eat, for me that is. The Mojo’s 21 liter belly meant it could keep going way longer than my fight with hunger.

Rider & Mojo 2 (Story Shot)

No damp spirits here!

As we waited on the weather to let up, I noticed the attention to detail Mahindra has put into this version of its flagship motorcycle. For instance the pannier frames on either side of the rear wheel hold the saddle bags in place, giving the rider more confidence while tackling Indian roads and their temperamental surfaces ;).

Mojo Off Road (Story Shot)

No road, no problem!

Connected to the pannier frame is the Tail carrier. A spot perfect for my tent and sleeping bag, if I’d carried it on this day that is! Still, it made a sexy hold for the helmet. With the helmet on it, damn she looked hot!

Mojo Tourer Edition Close up of Accessories

Ready for adventure!

Rain had now given way to a steady breeze around Kusegaon on this early evening. The rays of the Sun took turns poking at the landscape while I sat admiring the Mojo and setting up some shots of myself with the bike. Kusegaon is a place I come to, often. It’s the perfect place to quickly disconnect from the city and its usual trappings. Something which the Mojo is good for too.

5 Extra Shot

In the thick of it all!

The Mojo Tourer Edition is a purpose built machine for the aspirational Indian motorcycle traveller, to say the least. It’s a nice bike to start ones motorcycling journey on. I was beginning to regret the lack of time I’d have with this motorcycle, only a 300 kilometer ride around Pune/Mumbai this time. Would be an experience to ride through the night with those sexy fog lamps, I’m sure. I have a penchant for auxiliary lights, I must confess. 😀

Spellbinding lights!

Evening was upon us as I vroomed around exploring the lush green Kusegaon had offered on this day. With the kind of weather we’d had all day, I was almost certain there would be no good sunset to write home about but boy, was I wrong!

6 Extra Shot

Surreal Clouds!

It was surreal, as if the clouds decided that this would be the day they would put on a show of sorts. As if to mark my ride with the Mojo. Further driving home the point of getting out of one’s comfort zone and more importantly, getting out there on a purposeful machine.

Mojo Without Rider Mood Shot 3(Story Shot).jpg

The Mojo Tourer Edition – as purposeful as it gets!

Touring is all about being out there and when you least expect it, you’ll be gifted for the choices you made to get on the road and travel on a motorcycle.

Mojo & Rider Mood Shot 1

Conquering Dreams

The Mahindra Mojo Tourer Edition has been put together for just such a person. One who’s in control of their individuality and does not fear going out there and conquering dreams. Even if it’s as simple as – Chasing Clouds!

— Nipun Srivastava

Mojo Without Rider Mood Shot 4(Story Shot).jpg

Chasing Clouds!


We Thank

Mumbai: (Client) Mahindra Two Wheelers Limited, for flying with @TheNirvanaTeam and for providing the Motorcycle.

TheNirvanaTeam: Kaustubh Khare, Roy Kulkarni, Dinesh Pawar, Vaishali Chandan and Nipun Srivastava (lead).

All views represented on the article are personal opinions of the writer based on his experience with the vehicle showcased.

Check out how Mahindra Two Wheelers Ltd used the content: www.mahindramojo.com/mojo-tourer

More on the motorcycle, here.


Check out more shots from this Photo-shoot!


Great Sound Goes Places

Bose Soundlink Mini 2

The Bose SoundLink Mini 2, Bluetooth speaker.

Every once in a while we come across a product which takes our breath away. Like something new you bring home for the first time and then wonder how you lived all those years without it! The Bose SoundLink Mini 2 is just such a thing.

For us travel bunnies, the need for great sound on the go is an important one.

Headphones are a pain to untangle, music systems cant be taken out of cars and other speakers (although reasonably good at sound) sport a complete lack of aesthetic value (even Beats!). Our passive quest for a solution was on for a while now. On our latest trip, a new friend brought along this sleek beauty.

Bose Soundlink Mini 2

At first glance, you wonder what it is. Sleek lines, slender profile, meaty weight, understated controls and oh, no wires.

We haven’t even gotten to the sound yet!

Imagine the most striking, well cut, visually spellbinding diamond in your mind. That’s how good it sounds when the waves hit ones head and that’s how good it sounds all the time. A breath of high-fidelity fresh air, truly.

Practicality

It is heavy, pretty heavy compared to other stuff in the market. It is not water resistant (like a JBL). And is not something that can be thrown around in the back of a backpack. Well you can but the sheer beauty of it will make sure you give it the attention it deserves.

Bose Soundlink Mini 2

It gives a good 4 hours of high fidelity high volume sound. Or if you like it mellow, it might even last two days.

The Bose SoundLink Mini 2 charges up within the hour and the lady inside tells you how much juice it has every time you switch it on.

Has a 3.5 mm jack, a cradle charger and also a direct charging micro USB port.

Clearly marked buttons with good tactile feel let you control everything from the power to the volume and you can even toggle through two devices which can be connected simultaneously via Bluetooth.

Bose Soundlink Mini 2

This Bluetooth speaker is by far the best we have ever used. The design, the feel and the sound – all of it sets the Mini 2 apart from the rest.

Travel

What blew us away is the sheer quality and usability of this Bluetooth speaker. We love using it while working behind the scenes. It lends any photo-shoot that much more ambience and heck, we even use it when it’s time to chill out and take a break from it all!

Bose Soundlink Mini 2

The SoundLink Mini 2 is just the thing one needs to head out alone and be by ones self.

Give a boring evening them feels, we all know good music can do that! We love using it while driving. On road trips, our Jeep and the Bose make perfect companions over long hours of travel over far and distant lands. All while keeping our music humming right there with us.

(the Jeep does not come with a music system as standard)

Bose Soundlink Mini 2

Style

Oh boy, who knew Bluetooth speakers could be a style statement?

Put it on any surface and it will make heads turn. Play music and the same heads will swing with melodies galore. It’s like audio Nirvana.

Bose Soundlink Mini 2

This speaker really is something we wonder how we survived without, given our love for music and travel. Even though the Bose SoundLink Mini 2 is one of the most expensive speakers in its segment, it is the one which takes the prize in the end.

Great design and amazing sound – Kudos Bose!

Bose Soundlink Mini 2

The Bose SoundLink Mini 2, Bluetooth speaker.


Photography for this piece has been delivered by our resident Champ – Nipun Srivastava.

Product: Bose SoundLink Mini 2 Bluetooth Speaker. This is not a sponsored post, we payed for the piece!

Model: Kaustubh Khare

Vehicle: Our very own Kalmoohi – The Jeep.

We would like to thank Kaustubh Khare Photography for helping out on shoot and also for standing in as our lone model ;).


Own the game!


The Explorer’s Diary

Many great quotes have been written about travel and exploration outside one’s own comfort zones. These words often make us question our dispositions towards travel or the lack of it. Here at Nirvana, we humbly try and go beyond every time we find ourselves looking for excuses not to do something.

The mind plays tricks on the body, inertial towards change, it takes all of one’s passion to overcome the inertia and jump into the beauty this earth has on offer.
Gear up. Throttle up. Explore

The need for adventure, sometimes resides deep within the heart. For those of us burdened with the daily grind of things, it can take some doing to unearth that true calling. Cutting away from what the world calls life and regaining one’s individuality. Becoming the person one truly desires to be is not an endeavour for the faint hearted. Especially not for those who loathe being judged.

Once we’re over it though, once we realise, it is only our thoughts that truly matter in our lives. The world becomes our playground. A palate of dumbfounding experiences which we would never have explored was it not for our heart’s restless beat to the tune of adventure.

Adventurous tunes.

Ever wonder what it feels like to be a vagabond?

We struggle with it sometimes. Forgetting why we started out in the first place, neck deep in ‘work’, making ourselves believe we’re already in the right place. Irony is, there is no right place. Only the place where you are now and the next place where you want to be at.

It is that journey which is worth all the effort in the world.

Where you are now to where you want to be.

Director and Lead Photographer Nipun Srivastava has this to say:

“A day off or a weekend doesn’t cut it anymore. I feel the need for eye opening experiences. Adventures which leave me humbled, add the most value to my life.”

Humbling endeavours

We agree. Slowing down is sometimes a great way of making sure one is doing everything one is supposed to. Not just ‘work’ but spending time actually living and loving where we are. Smelling the roses, from time to time, refreshes the soul – Readying it for the next challenge. 🙂

At Nirvana, motoring powers our soul and the pursuit for great photography is the fuel that drives us forward towards a life of driving adventures. Have you ever felt this intense intrinsic drive to explore?

The Explorer's Diary.

These days, when we head out as photographers, we go out looking for experiences. Whether it involves travelling a thousand miles or maybe just ten, it is the experience that counts. More and more, thanks to our unique clientele, we look at shooting experiences rather than just ‘set up’ shots for our audience. Our job of shooting vehicles and landscapes affords us the opportunities to actually be there in the moment. So much so, that many a time, the roads just run out!

The Explorer's Diary

Our adventures have seen many friends join hands with us in our photographic endeavours. Teamwork, as they say is imperative for success and it’s no different for photography. Someone’s gotta drive while we shoot ;).

It is our constant endeavour to find like minded individuals who are willing to share our adventurous dreams. And we have been lucky.

The Explorer's Diary

We’ve found a few great people, who work with us not just to earn but also to learn, with us. As we grow ever greater into these times, they’ve had our back and we thank them for it.

Now, we move into a new era with Nirvana. Greater stakes, greater endeavours and epic outcomes await. Join us.

Looking into the Sun!

As we wait for the rising sun. As we start engines for the upcoming run.

Do you feel you can explore with us, as one?

The Explorer's Diary

Apologies for the silence on our website for the past few months. We were busy.

But hey! You can now track us daily on our NEW FACEBOOK PAGE!

AND Our Twitter and Instagram!

See you out there!


Photography for this piece has been delivered by our resident Champ – Nipun Srivastava.

The muse for this shoot was our very own Kalmoohi – The Jeep. More about her, here.


 


Touring with the GLA!

One thing we love about our job is that it always feels like a vacation. Recently, our resident photographer landed up at a destination so beautiful, in a car so cool, he had to bring out the big guns!

The new GLA from Mercedes Benz!

Check out the view!

Nashik, in Maharashtra, is an Indian city tuned mostly towards religious tourism and the occasional trek. In recent years though, this city has taken on a unique personality. One, that has truly intrigued and amazed the entire country and the world!

Nashik is home to India’s most popular Winery – Sula Vineyards. Just outside the city limits stand the stately Vineyards. An expanse ripe with enthusiasm, technique and a unique taste for the good life – that’s the Sula vibe. Right then, we struck a chord with the place.

Visiting the Sula Vineyards!

Arriving in style!

We drove from Pune to Nashik in the striking Mercedes Benz GLA. A car we chose for its unique form and laudable capability. Right from the get-go, the GLA 200 CDI took on the challenge of the Indian road with solid gusto. Traditionally, Mercedes Benz cars occupy a luxury oriented placement in the Indian market. Touring in the GLA however, we felt brand Mercedes Benz was now venturing into territory not just for the chauffeur driven CEO but also for the one who likes to take charge of the wheel and steer into the good life, head-on.

Head into the Indian countryside and one is greeted with boundless beauty albeit coupled tastefully with the occasional bad road. A place not ideal for soft, sexy and luxurious cars, surely. It is here that the Mercedes Benz GLA, with its rugged disposition, throws down the gauntlet in the face of this fact. Roads, good or bad, are easily traveled by this mid sized GLAdiator of sorts. The GLA also excels in quenching the thirst for trailblazing across the countryside. All this while keeping the driver cocooned in familiar luxury. It is by far the best suited Benz for the aspirational Indian.

All about the GLAm!

All about the GLAm!

Talking aspirations, the Sula winery was born out of sheer passion and a great attitude. CEO Rajeev Samant took what little he had, poured his heart into his work and gave rise to a truly global wine brand. The creation of Sula has brought about a wine revolution in India. Growing at a healthy pace and gaining popularity by the minute, Sula’s Wines have captured the attention of most curious travelers and wine connoisseurs alike.

Taste the Sula Life!

Taste the Sula Life!

Attention is something the GLA grabs by the ton as well. The GLA’s road presence is something which needs to be felt to be believed. This luxury SUV gives India the pomp of a three pointed star, the elegance of a luxury tourer and the go-almost-anywhere attitude! The GLA rivals the Audi Q3 and the BMW X1 when we look at price points. The Mercedes Benz GLA looks stunning from every angle, something that its rivals struggle to do even on the best of days.

exquisite

exquisite

The GLA is big enough to command the road and small enough to even be called compact! On the motorway, the GLA drove flawlessly across hundreds of kilometers that we threw at it. Eventually the roads ran out and we were doing trails towards Nashik and this is where the GLA came into its own. We weren’t worried about ground clearance, we knew there was enough power and all doubts about the GLA’s capabilities evaporated as we circumvented traffic jams on the Pune – Nashik Highway by driving through tricky village paths & broken roads!

Tasting Trails!

tasting trails

We did not push the GLA beyond the broken road however. When driving a luxury car of this form, it isn’t always the best course of action trying to do high articulation maneuvers. That’s simply not what the GLA is about. A 7 speed dual clutch gearbox mated to a 4-pot diesel motor churning out 135 bhp provides effortless on-road performance on the new GLA 200 CDI. The diesel engine does create some noise outside and on the inside as well but it’s not something which affects the overall drive experience. Space is tight on the inside, making the GLA in essence a two person tourer.

Two of us, with our luggage and camera equipment traveled very comfortably in the GLA. We fell in love with the fantastic driver and spotter seats in the car, these seats make long drives an absolute dream! The unmissable sport mode makes easy pickings of sharp mountain curves and the suspension which is specially tuned for India (owing to the increased ride height) does well to keep the GLA centered and the occupants charged up ;).

Ideal for India! The Mercedes Benz GLA!

Ideal for India!

On a drive which ends at a location as stunning as the Sula Vineyards, we had to go all-in. We reached Sula and were greeted by their brand managers, Nirvana was given a one-on-one tour of the Vineyard and the manufacturing facility. Not to forget the tasting of 10 most popular wines from Sula!

Sunset at Sula!

Sunset at Sula!

A visit to Sula can be an all encompassing experience. Soléil, the restaurant, serves Indo-French Cuisine at the vineyard and ‘Beyond’ is a luxury hotel managed by Sula for its patrons. They also undertake tours of the winery for a small fee which includes a quick wine tasting as well. If chilling out is all you plan to do, you can head to the cafe overlooking the Vineyard for some amazing sunsets and snacks.

Touring with the GLA

The Nirvana Favorite – Chenin Blanc Reserve.

We’re no wine boffins but we do have our favorites! On our scales, the Chenin Blanc Reserve and the Late Harvest Chenin Blanc take the top spots! Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Shiraz and Merlot are a few more among the varieties produced at Sula. If you are someone with a genuine thirst for travel and love a unique experience, a visit to these Vineyards is a must-do. It is one of the most unique weekend experiences one can undertake.

GLA for the win!

In it to win it!

Pushing the realms of possibility and chasing perfection relentlessly are traits both Sula & Mercedes Benz embody. Our boy Nipun Srivastava cut short his vacation and took on the task of showcasing both the car and the destination, single-handedly. This, because we value true originality, class and quality. Any such endeavour inspires us to do more and way better than ever before. We thank Sula Vineyards for their exemplary hospitality.

Do Not Drink And Drive!

Motoring and alcohol do not mix, let’s be clear.

Here at Nirvana we practice the highest norms of motoring safety. We adore the vehicles we drive and use, behooving us to do our job responsibly.

Do share our Sula story if you liked it! In our bid to encourage motoring conversations further, we’d like you to comment below and tell us what you think.

We’d love to know how our readers satisfy their cravings for the road! Cheers!

More pictures form our Sula Vineyards road-trip!


The Jeep Life!

Lex Talionis!
Lex Talionis! – A long term update on the Mahindra Thar!

We’ve spent an adventurous four years with this mean and mod-friendly machine! So before we let you through to our original story on the Thar, here’s a quick look at the major modifications on our daily driver!

Mahindra Customisation: Snorkel, Midnight Edition Front and Rear Bumpers: Inspire confidence while fording and enhance maneuverability / aesthetics.

Bimbra 4×4: Heavy Duty Rock Sliders, Fiber reinforced Hard Top (V2), Aluminum Roof Rails: Protection from rocks underneath and the Hard Top takes cabin comfort and security to the next level.

Hella: Front Auxiliary Halogen Lamps (Comet 500 Black Magic): Used as DRLs and driving aid.

Onella: Rear Auxiliary LED Lamps: Rear driving aid and campsite illumination.

Aurora LED: Front LED Bar (Off-Road): Off-road path-finding.

Cooper Tires: Discoverer STT Pro 31″ Mud Terrain Tires on 15″ Steel Wheels: Improved off-road capability, increased stability on road, the trade off – an audible ‘humm’ while at speed, reduced top end. 

Mopar: Wrangler Hood Latches: Aesthetics primarily, eliminates squeaky noises made by stock metal bonnet Latches.

DampMat: Thermo-Acoustic Insulation: Reduced cabin noise and heat by 50%. Improved life inside cabin (and air-con efficiency) immensely.

ARMORO:  Custom Spare Wheel Cover: Adds attitude and improves overall aesthetics, protects spare rubber from elements.

Lex Talionis!
Built not Bought!

Each modification/add-on mentioned above has been made after careful research and due scrutiny of each available option in the category. The custom accessories market in India is steadily growing and so are the options that are natively available for enthusiasts to use on their individual rigs.

We at TheNirvanaTeam & theroadtonirvana.com have also grown with the industry as end-users and as creators who use these products to our advantage while on the job.

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Now, back to our original story on the Mahindra Thar!

The Jeep Life!

The Jeep Life!

Those who follow our work will know we did a quick review of the Mahindra Thar some time ago. The Thar is an SUV which carries the tag of a Jeep in India. People who drive these brutes are often from a different school of thought altogether. These men and women, like most, value comfort, style, ease of handling and most of all practicality. With all these in the bag though, there is still something missing. The chase for this missing element is what makes people buy a Jeep.

A jeep is not practical, it isn’t comfortable, the handling on these machines is appalling and as for styling – it hasn’t changed for the last 7 decades. So then, what is it? What makes one buy a Jeep? Nirvana set out to unravel this mystery in the best way there is!

Trailblazing Thar!

Why Jeep?

We cleared our schedule, packed up as much stuff as we could, stuffed it into a Mahindra Thar and then drove off in tandem with the rising Sun. For the first few kilometers, we battled the blistering cold as the Thar warmed up. The cabin heater takes its own time to wake up and the canvas-ish soft top roof was not helping things either. Eventually though we did find some semblance of temperature inside the cabin. The drive had now begun. We were now officially giving chase to the element, that one thing which makes one go out and buy a jeep.

Barreling through the cold morning winds, we’d defog the windscreen manually (with a cloth) every few minutes. Irritating at first, it is something a Jeeper gets used to very quickly. Much like the bumpy ride one has to deal with even on smooth highway roads. The rear end of the Thar sits on an antique leaf spring suspension setup making it jump over every little lump of tar on the Indian road. Safe to say, the ride is not something to write home about. Even with the fully independent pot hole eating front suspension, there is only so much this Jeep can offer.

Highway Crusin'!

 Highway Crusin’ – Indside Story!

The 2.5 Litre turbo-diesel does tend to impress when given the beans on the highway. Sluggish at first but given time, the Thar holds its own on the highway. For what is essentially a box on wheels, the Mahindra Thar is a gem on smooth straight roads. On mountain roads however, curve after curve, one has to calibrate to the comfort zone of this Jeep. The driver learns to read the road for potential bumps and it’s his/her skill which decides how smooth or unnerving the ride will be.

Barring a rudimentary seat-belt, there is nothing between the passenger/pedestrian and certain loss of limb. Oh, maybe the less than adequate brakes might soften the nudge a little. And then there is the price tag; eight and a half lakhs on the road (Pune). Phew! So where does all that money go? Clearly the interiors (or the lack of them) is not something which eats up the budget.

Jeep It!

Getting dirty!

As we found out, the Borg&Warner 4×4 transfer case mated to the 2.5 turbo is where the money’s at. It is the off-road capability of this Jeep that costs. Off-road loyalists in India will probably want to discount the Thar’s ability when things get a little too technical (Compared to a traditional solid-axle). Not to say this jeep is bad when taken off the road. We found the stock Thar to be adequately endowed for someone looking to break into the world of Indian jeeping. Having said that, we were still miles away from discovering the magic element (and our destination!).

Trailblazing Thar!

I can go anywhere!

We had driven a few hundred kilometers by now. Over highways and in the curves, we’d found our rhythm with the Thar; then something funny happened.

As we got used to the Thar’s antics, she took on an almost endearing personality. Like a human being, even with all its limitations, the Thar kept moving. Eating miles and sipping diesel, she got us to our destination – Our holy grail – Hedvi.

Holy grail – Hedvi!

Despite all the niggles, we had fallen for the Mahindra Thar! Every time we looked, we couldn’t take our eyes off it! On a beach, out trailblazing in the wilderness or even on the city street, the Thar cuts a very crisp figure. And gosh is it attractive! Driving down the streets, everyone from young boys and girls to middle aged couples and even a few Army and Police personnel will give you the thumbs up.

The Thar almost always becomes the conversation piece because truth is, the Jeep (as a concept) has seen it all. Over the past century, in all corners of the world and in every walk of life this vehicle in all its forms has proven its mettle beyond doubt. Starting from the military, through utility and going all the way till recreation, the Jeep can do everything.

Trailblazing Thar!
Trailblazing!

The compromise in comfort and luxury, we feel, is fair in return for the capabilities and downright uniqueness. Safety on the other hand is something Mahindra & Mahindra still need to work on for the Thar.

Finally though we’d cracked it; we now knew why one buys a jeep. Read on.

Travel till land’s end!

Romance is rare, charm is even rarer and class, well that’s almost extinct. There is a reason why a charming, secure and confident man makes any woman swoon. The reason is romance. Any man who is secure in himself and confident about his abilities probably knows how to woo a woman. He could walk onto her turf with his charm and the only thing a lady will do is welcome him. No matter how uncomfortable it is to be together, no matter how unpractical the love is and regardless of the cost, if the romance is alive – the love will flourish.

And that is it ladies and gentlemen. The romance of a lifestyle is what attracts enthusiasts to jeeps like bees to honey. It’s the romance of doing things differently, standing unaffected by the way the ‘herd’ looks at living and going where few bother to look which sets true blue Jeepers apart. Living with a Jeep is not for those corrupted by comfort!

Trailblazing Thar!

The virile lifestyle!

Comfort zones become a thing of the past with a jeep. A well kitted out vehicle and with a strong skill set on tap, anyone can become an explorer. In fact, we love the romance of Jeeping so much, we’ve bought one! The vehicle you see in the pictures is a bone stock* Mahindra Thar from our very own Nirvana stable!

Expect a lot more travel and Jeeping stories hereon out! Also, in our bid to encourage motoring conversations further, we’d like you to comment below and tell us what you think. We’d love to know how our readers satisfy their cravings for the road! Cheers!

For more Jeeping photography click on The Jeep Life!


Mahindra Xylo Mad Dash!

Mahindra Xylo Mad Dash!

Road trips, to us, are the best way to break the ice between a vehicle and the people who use it. Much like it is for strangers travelling together. Here at Nirvana, we like to believe that vehicles, regardless of the number of wheels, have personalities too. With the Mahindra Xylo, we were on the verge of finding out what motoring could mean if one let go of stereotypes and just put pedal to the metal.

The day before our trip, as the Mahindra Xylo arrived, we were a tad surprised with the space inside. The initial drive made us feel like everything was where it needed to be in the vehicle. Power, space, air conditioning, stability and that all important 3rd row of seats. We would be putting the Xylo to the ‘Nirvana Travel Test’ so obviously we had no back up vehicle to lug our stuff separately.

Let’s go that way!

Five boys, seven days and loads of camera things, we set out to conquer the Indian countryside in our Xylo. We must be honest, an ‘MUV’ is probably not the first choice of vehicle for a bunch of young boys who’d want to have a bit of fun on a road trip. Through our photography, that was the very mindset we were out to change!

There were two major aims of our week long trip. We were to photograph the vehicle and also experience life with the Mahindra Xylo H9. H9 being the most well equipped ‘top end’ version.

Our first destination was the beach town of Murud Janjira. A 170 kilometer drive saw us there well in time for the sunset and a quick bite. On the short drive here, the Xylo behaved like a silent companion, nonchalantly going about its business of turning wheels and getting us to the town.

Shooting big vehicles such as the Xylo can be a tricky proposition. We had to think and shoot, constantly reworking frames to get shots worthy of the Nirvana name. We wrapped up our first sunset shoot. Taking some time to relax and absorb the beauty that was Murud Janjira, with the Xylo by our side. The vehicle had performed well on her first day. We were now excited to see the rest of the trip unfold!

Spontaneity equals fun, always!

The whole premise of this road trip was spontaneity. Everything would be decided on the go. Be it the next destination, the next photographic angle or even what/where the team would eat, we were flying freestyle all the way!

Early next morning, we forgot to wake up.

It happens, too much prep and no relaxation before hitting the road can lead to this. Good sleep is most important on any road trip. Good sleep leads to good fun, we think.

Finally, around 10 AM and with everyone on the breakfast table, we bounced ideas off each other. It was important we did that, 5 heads and no calibration can lead to a lot of chaos with the lens. Having decided we would let our quest for exploration guide our shoot, we hit the road destination unknown! Driving through interiors of the Konkan Coast, it was inevitable that we hit the famous National Highway 17. The smooth and bendy roads of this highway were a good test run for the Xylo. Not to forget the five boys inside!

We drove about 200 kilometers on this day, finally finding ourselves in a quaint and almost completely secluded beach village, Hedvi.

Hedvi!

If you haven’t guessed it yet, the Nirvana team loves beaches. We believe some of the greatest driving roads in the world run along the coasts and it’s no different in India. Another reason maybe that we love shooting images in those dreamy golden hours :). We had timed our arrival perfectly. Hedvi welcomed us with the perfect sunset vistas, not to forget the perfect beach driving opportunity. Until now we had driven the Xylo on good roads, bad roads, straight roads and bendy roads but now it was time to have some fun on the beach!

The New Mahindra Xylo: Practically Brilliant!

The stereotype of boring MUVs does not apply to this vehicle. The New Xylo is a very amusing car. Right from the voice enabled commands to the mind bending amount of space inside, the Xylo surpasses all expectations. To delve deeper, lugging all our camera equipment along with the team that makes it all work is no easy task but the Xylo was toe for toe with every challenge we could throw at it. We’re not shy of acknowledging the elephant in the room either, a car this big has to have monumental body roll right? Wrong!

The new Xylo with its comfort spec suspension once again had us snoozing in our seats as we munched those curvy coastal miles. Trust us when we say this, a hard working team loves a vehicle that takes care of its passengers over long distances regardless of the road conditions. Rumbling under the hood was the Mahindra’s flagship M-Hawk engine. We really enjoyed putting the 120 horses to work on the Indian highways, taking turns to drive the vehicle all throughout the Mahindra Xylo Mad Dash. We were impressed.

Splash!

Boys will be boys and who doesn’t like making a splash in water?! As the Sun set over the Arabian Sea, we pulled up our socks and washed the behemoth off of the salt water from all that driving and splashing in the sea (basics!).

It is imperative that we mention more about the Hedvi village. Hedvi is something else, it is solace, freedom and fun all rolled into one exquisite ballad of beauty. We’ve always been in love with the simple and rustic charm of this place. The beach here is absolutely untouched by civilization and the village brings the same ‘middle of nowhere’ feeling into any stay at this place. Especially since there is no cellphone network here, time spent here is exclusively private. Which is something that helped us get in touch with the vehicle we were shooting even more.

Evening under the stars!

At Hedvi, the Nirvana Team had spent all its time interacting one-on-one with the Xylo. The climate here was so humid that we spent an entire afternoon napping inside the Xylo, you know, taking advantage of that exceptional air conditioning system. Night fell and we were out again, we realized that it’s the perfect vehicle to go camping with buddies. Oodles of space for camping gear and everything else one might need!

Bonfire brothers!

We hit the road early next morning. Initially deciding to stick to the coast as long as we could, in the Xylo, we explored a little bit of the Konkan (coast) one usually misses out on. We even took a short ferry ride (with the Xylo!) to get ourselves across a river. As the day progressed, we took turns suggesting our next possible destination. In the end, we needed the map to figure out where it is we could actually go in the time we had. As soon as the road map of India unfolded, Lead Photographer Nipun Srivastava exclaimed – Hampi!

decisions decisions

The moment Hampi was mentioned, we took off! Hitting the National Highway Number 4 a little after lunch and then soon getting off it to head towards the prehistoric temple town that is Hampi, we were on a roll with our Xylo! We reached Hampi late in the night, a drive that was not just beautiful but also equally intense. We had spent an entire day travelling in the Xylo. To be honest, none of us were too tired so we treated ourselves to some well deserved pints of beer :D.

Hampi

Hampi is a village about 850 kilometers from Mumbai, close to the town of Hospet in the South Indian state of Karnataka. This place is a true wonder of nature. Views of the landscape here are full of boulder hills in various sizes and shapes. Hampi is a site located within the ruins of the Vijayanagar Empire. It is older than the medieval city of Vijayanagara and is still of much religious importance. Hampi is home to the Virupaksha Temple – the main center of pilgrimage here and dedicated to Lord Shiva. On the banks of The Tungabhadra river which flows through Karnataka into Andhra Pradesh, Hampi is not just a religious stop for the Indian traveler but is also a place of wonder and amazement to the foreign tourist. Hampi to us was the perfect opportunity to photograph the Xylo in truly unique surroundings.

The Mad Dash team at Hampi!

Amidst the ruins our team of photographers had a ball shooting the new Xylo! We drove from one ruin to another and explored the unique architecture and rock–cut structures and boy did we have the ‘time of our lives’! On one hand, temples of the Vijayanagar Empire poke ones spiritual inner self and on the other the awesome expanse of ruins spread as far as the eyes can see make one wonder, how on earth did they manage to build this wonderland!

Explore everything!

The Nirvana Team spent two days amidst the striking structures of Hampi. Six amazing days of travel, motoring and unparalleled fun were to be followed by one last Mad Dash across the states of Karnataka and Maharashtra to get us back home to Pune. Pack up – load up – rev up – kind of a theme now for us and the kind of work we do around here.

The Xylo MUV is regarded by most as just a people carrier and nothing more. Understandable, as it feels like one’s private cave on the road – it’s that huge. When Mahindra & Mahindra called us though, we were forced to look at the whole idea of the Xylo differently. As is the case with every vehicle we shoot/test, the can of worms opens first. Once that’s been dealt with, we head out with the vehicle to see if we were right.

Take a trip with the brand new Xylo!

The mood inside the Xylo on our drive back was surreal. Each doubt we had about the super-MUV had been quashed by the intense trip we’d taken in this car. So much so, we were even talking about getting one for the Nirvana Garage. Yes, the Xylo is that good! Turns out that our preconceived notions about the Xylo were exactly that, preconceived. Talking about personalities again, we think the Xylo knows where it stands in the ‘looks’ department. Like most underdogs though, it outperforms expectations and delivers on platter a lot more than one might imagine!

The Mahindra Xylo Mad Dash was conceptualized and executed by Nirvana exclusively for Mahindra & Mahindra.

We Thank:

Mumbai: (Client) Mahindra & Mahindra (Brand Xylo), for flying with us and for providing the vehicle.

Hedvi: Abhay Bhatkar, for the extremely personalized service to Team Nirvana.

Hampi: KSTDC Mayura Bhuwaneswari, for the best hotel deal in town!

Team Nirvana: Yogesh Shinde, Henry Fernandes, Vishal Kankonkar and Jitendra Singh for their support on shoot.

Videos from the Mahindra Xylo Mad Dash!


India in an AMG!

India in an AMG

 Mercedes Benz and www.theroadtonirvana.com share a motoring relationship of sorts.

‘The Best or Nothing’ says it all. The statement resonates so fiercely with our passion for creating experiential motoring images, that we push ourselves to the absolute limit every time. The moment we got the message from Germany, our planning began.

We were to deliver images that were clearly rooted in India. Routine as that may sound, fitting a car/vehicle into that bracket was always going to be a challenge. The list of possible destinations was endless. Right from the backwaters of Kerala to the mountain passes of Ladakh and even the seven sisters of the North east, we considered everything. After all, this was a unique opportunity. Through our photography, the world would lay its eyes on India.

Something still eluded us. It was the peak of the Indian Monsoon. Everywhere, the skies were grey and the earth a wet green. Then it struck us, we would have to outrun the Indian monsoon! We would head to Rajasthan!

Sun, Sand and Wind.

Rajasthan!

The Desert State of India is home to the Thar Desert. A place we are very familiar with and if you know our work, it is a place we love to shoot at. The sound of the wind in the Desert carries with it stories of times past and as the sun beats down relentlessly each day, the sheer tenacity of the desert people comes to the fore. The odds were stacked against us though. The Desert was 1200 kilometers away, the rain was heavy and we had just enough time to make it all happen. Along the way, we were also to shoot at Vadodara for a separate brief.

Then came the question of the car itself. We were to shoot the new CLS and also the GL 63 AMG both and we had just about a week to make it all happen. Even though the weather was an obvious risk, The Nirvana Team was ready and we slotted ourselves into gear. We flew out to Vadodara where we were to collaborate with a local artist for 2 days. For Mercedes Benz, of course. This shoot was part of the ‘Homestory’ and artist profile for the St Moritz Art Masters, Switzerland.

Grunt Central!Making a presence in Vadodara!

The Laxmi Vilas Palace at Baroda is an eternal icon of the city. In every mention of the City, the Palace features at the top. The question was – How do we get in?

We exercised all our contacts and then some more to at least get a word through to the palace authorities. The people at the palace were superbly kind to us and let us shoot on the grounds solely on our merit. The palace gates opened and we drove the mighty GL 63 AMG onto its August grounds! Rani ji, the reigning Queen of Vadodara also graced our shoot and met with us. We were truly honoured! On this day, even the Sun came out for a short while and we got a few shots worthy of the Mercedes Benz Badge.

Laxmi Vilas Palace, Vadodara.Laxmi Vilas Palace, Vadodara.

As soon as the adrenaline of shooting at the Palace wore off, the realization of the start of the road trip set in. Experiential road trips are our forte but even then, each road trip shoot brings with it unique challenges. The Indian monsoon was still unrelenting. We were very low on sleep too, an average of just three hours a day. Then again, if the car you’re driving is more luxurious than a 5 Star hotel, who needs sleep? This is where the GL 63 AMG really came on song.

“Enough power to move the earth, while keeping one cocooned in luxury.” were lead photographer Nipun Srivastava’s actual words just after they hit the highways leading into Rajasthan.

GL 63 AMG – Grunt Central!

Hell for leather, always. - Team Nirvana

Whoa!! That’s the first thought one’s brain will have when you ram the pedal into the GL. You will be punched into your seat and then your world will change. As you hurtle forward, your ears will tingle to sounds of the V8 sitting under the hood. As the needle hits red, one pull of the paddle will usher in another delivery of power as if it was something the gods arranged for you to have. Crisp steering response and a not so heavy steering wheel make controlling the GL 63 AMG a pleasure.

By now, you’re in a trance. Eyes on the road, pedal to the metal and going hell for leather – that is the AMG experience. The handcrafted engine will follow your every command, in the GL 63 AMG, you are the Maharaja of the Indian road. When you’re coming, they will hear you and when you’re going they WILL look. That’s the reaction one gets on the roads.

The Indian Road:

Indian highways are notorious. Bad roads were the least of our concerns.

The Blue Hulk, as we had begun to call the mighty GL, was powered by a V8 Petrol Bi-Turbo engine. A high performance engine like that needs to be fed appropriately. Only a high octane diet would adequately satiate The Hulk’s appetite. Sadly though, out near the Desert, just finding a fuel station which sold petrol was a luxury. The fuel economy of just over 4 kilometers to a litre of fuel (when Nipun aka lead foot was at the wheel) was not helping things. On the secluded desert roads, we fueled up every opportunity we got!

www.theroadtonirvana.comLeaving the weather behind!

We covered the distance of 650 Kilometers from Baroda to Jaisalmer in record time. Stopping over at Barmer and at a few other places along the road as well. Driving across the landscape was such a rush that we forgot lunch! Improvisation was the answer – Bananas! We reached Jaisalmer as the moon rose over a now clear sky. Team Nirvana had finally outrun the Indian Monsoon. We love it when a plan comes together!

The Desert, The City: Jaisalmer.

This city and Nirvana go back a long way. One of our pet projects; Rooh – e – Rajasthan meaning ‘Spirit of the Desert’ has featured this superlative city. To us, Jaisalmer is like home.

www.theroadtonirvana.comGolden City

To twist things a little, this time, we were not staying at the city per say. Team Nirvana and the mighty GL 63 AMG would be put up at a special place a little outside Jaisalmer. Super car – super hotel, you know. The luxurious surrounds of Hotel Suryagarh out in the Desert was to be our new playground and also our home base for the remainder of the shoot. As soon as we were in the city, we tanked up the Hulk and then our tummies as well. Shooting photographs on an empty stomach is a recipe for disaster ;).

With full stomachs, we marched onto the Desert, knowing exactly where and how we were to shoot. This shoot started at 11pm and we shot in the dunes for a couple of hours. Not a soul around for miles, the only lighting we had for this mini shoot was the Moon and the GL 63 AMG itself.

www.theroadtonirvana.comShooting in the moonlight!

After our initial fill of playing around in the sand under moonlight, we drove back to our (not so) humble abode.

A word about the hotel we stayed at: Suryagarh is a hotel which has little in common with the other places we’ve stayed at. In the middle of the arid desert life is difficult to say the least but if you’re at this hotel, everything is literally taken care of. We had spoken to them about our “plans” beforehand and they were most happy to oblige. Even before we reached, they knew what we needed and had it ready for us, customized to our liking. Amazing. It helps to have things sorted when on a photo shoot such as this. Kudos to Suryagarh!

SuryagarhThe Suryagarh Courtyard

Nothing ever goes to plan. We were up early for the sunrise but the eastern skies over Jaisalmer were overcast with mist and remnants of the monsoon. It felt as if the skies themselves were telling us to take a break. For the first time in 6 days, the Nirvana team sat down for a proper breakfast. Breakfast is a luxury few can afford in the bets we make to shoot in the golden hours. One look at our work and the sun and its shades will tell you how much we love using just natural sunlight.

As the Sun rose, the skies cleared. We began our final recce and chalked out a rough plan of action. Over the next two days, we shot in the desert, at our hotel and of course the city of Jaisalmer itself.

For us, the two most important things are motoring and travel. These words continue to define our style of photography. Jaisalmer and its surroundings gives photographers like us the perfect play ground to make our mistakes, learn and then deliver – every time.

www.theroadtonirvana.comBig toys!

Not to forget, another word which defines our work is adventure. We love taking a risk or two with everything we do. Whether it is shooting without camera straps altogether or dangling out of an open top jeep to get that perfect rolling shot, we’re always pushing limits.

We wanted to explore the roads that turn off of the main highways here in the extreme western parts of India. These small and almost inconsequential roads are sometimes gateways into photo opportunities which one would never imagine out on the highways. Going ‘off the beaten track’ as they harp every time ;).

As we drove further into the desert on one of these inner roads we saw the real temperament of the elements here. The landscape in this part of Rajasthan is unpredictable, from hills to sand dunes to sand dunes the size of hills – one never knows what will pop out of the horizon. In the Thar Desert, sand has the unquestionable right of way.

www.theroadtonirvana.comHell for leather – always!

Another side to Rajasthan’s beauty is the music here. This desert region is known for its folk and regional music and musicians. No evening is complete without a song or two from the repertoire of these tenured musicians. The tunes are mesmerizing and take one into bygone times when kings and queens reigned over this part of the world. It was a simple shot that popped up into our heads. Musicians + car + local architecture, simple.

www.theroadtonirvana.comMusic & Motoring

As it happened, on that particular evening, the Super Moon had come out in all its glory. The moonlight and the clouds added just the right amount of drama into the frame, we think. This was also the last night of our week long shoot. Before the Sun rose again, we would be on our way back to Pune.

The Beginning

www.theroadtonirvana.comThe journey is eternal.

The shoot had ended but the journey was a long way from being over. Not only did we have to drive our way back but like most journeys this was an experience which would continue in our minds for quite a while. The GL 63 AMG was the first super car we had ever shot, here in India and the way we do things, that was a big deal. We can hardly take credit for this shoot though. Yes, we shot the images but without the special support of our friends, acquaintances and team members none of this was possible. It was the people that we met who made it possible, we just made it happen :).

We thank:

Germany: (Client) Mercedes Benz for their awesomeness.

Pune: Mercedes Benz India for the vehicle.

Vadodara: Benchmark Cars – local Mercedes Benz Dealer. Miss Vishwamohini Priyalak Bhatt, Miss Malvika Singh and her highness The Queen of Vadodara.

Jaisalmer: The Suryagarh Boys: Siddharth, Sunny, Rajesh, Asif and Kunal for taking every effort to make sure our shoot and stay goes smoothly!

Team Nirvana: Niranjan Tarphe for his support on shoot.


Why I ride

Why I ride

Once they asked me why I ride.

I told them, I take everything into my stride,
leaving a trail while through life I power slide.

So that others may have a guiding line.
So they too can break free from the grapevine.

This is how I live my life,
unencumbered and free from strife.

Challenges accepted are challenges won,
failure makes things even more fun.

They looked at me all wide eyed,
as I told them why I ride.

~ Nipun Srivastava

Photographs sometimes have a way of touching the innermost chords with their maker and the subject. These are personal pieces of art. They embody much more than just the subject and thought process. These photographs represent the philosophy behind whole existences. Entire life stories in a picture, meanings of entire lifetimes visualized through action and depiction.

Here’s one such image. The rider and I spent close to an hour composing and recomposing this particular photograph. Fading light and a slippery riding surface were two major constraints, this shot could have been better. But like somethings usually are, this image is beautifully imperfect. Enjoy.

The Motorcycle: Royal Enfield Classic 500.

The Camera: Nikon D 800.

Motorcycle rider: Vishal Kankonkar.

Photographer: Nipun Srivastava.



Big Toys Small Joys

Driving in India and off-roading are synonymous. Seriously! How we manage to drive our little hatchbacks and sedans is a mystery. Which makes the case for brute, no nonsense off-road vehicles.

Big toys, small joys.

We’re at the peak of the monsoon here, the roads are more interesting these days and so are the weekends. On one such interesting weekend, we drove ourselves to a tourist spot near Pune. Read on and find out what happened. No, not Lonavala.

There is something to be said for not caring about potholes while driving. Take it from us, that luxury is priceless. Not worrying about the underbelly of ones vehicle is a whole new level of nirvana, especially when one enjoys adventurous road trips.

Our choice of vehicle, the Mahindra Thar CRDe, is a 4×4 jeep made for the young and tough or rough or whatever defines men and women who don’t mind a little fun in the mud.

Big toys, small joys.

Some ask, is it comfortable? No, kind people, it’s a jeep.

Our particular version had a thick cloth roof which didn’t leak, too much. AND we had an air con which worked! The epic simplicity of a jeep is what is beautiful to us. It takes use, abuse, reuse and still keeps going like nothing else on the road.

We figure, as long as a person can deal with less than average driving comfort and above average maintenance interactions, this jeep is perfect. The Thar has a good engine for over-taking on the highways and doing your average off the road antic. Give the CRDe a smooth road and it will touch 140 km/h. Yes!

It’s planted too, more so than other jeeps which lack front independent suspension. Pardon the jargon. What we’re saying is, the ride is bumpy but you won’t hit your head on the roof. The Thar is a pleasure to drive on smooth and curvy hill roads as long as you keep it under 70 and have some rpm in your pocket.

It rolls just enough for you to get a cozy moment with you know who. 😉

Mahabaleshwar, surprisingly, turned out to be the perfect test run for this little doer. We drove through pouring rain in the day and as soon as the sun set, we found ourselves doing 10km/h in completely fogged out driving conditions.

For those who don’t know, jeep headlamps are some of the worst that were ever invented. Somethings that are well invented are roadside reflectors and footpaths! Literally tracing our path with the help of these aids, we reached our destination. Beer, food, sleep and back in the jeep.

We, being awesome, chanced upon an open table top mountain on our way back and stopped for a quick photo-session. Remember the joy of jumping in rain water puddles as a kid? We did that and a little more.

Big toys, small joys.

Lets splash that!

Tourist spot shmoorist spot. Thanks to the constant rain there was hardly anyone here, making our pictures look like they were taken in the middle of nowhere. That’s the thing about jeeps, rain/slush/snow only excites the driver. There were no damp spirits here!

Big toys, small joys.

Okay, I’ll play alone.

Hard core off-roaders would probably not like this turbo version of the jeep too much. The ECU controlled engine dynamics can sometimes make a tricky situation trickier. But, that’s not to say that the CRDe Thar is bad at off-roading. It can handle pretty much anything that the average enthusiast can throw at it.

Big toys, small joys.

I can go anywhere!

So, we think this jeep is a perfect all rounder. All this when it’s completely stock with no modifications. We know, what’s a jeep without modifications right? There you have it, even when stock, the Thar is a damn fine vehicle. We’ve had our eye on it for a while now, who knows, you might see the nirvana brand jeep rolling alongside soon!

Also, in our bid to encourage motoring conversations further, we’d like you to comment below and tell us what you think. We’d love to know how our readers satisfy their cravings for the road! Cheers!

Special mention:

Vishal Kankonkar: His jeep!


Shooting Stars

Exceptional photography – team that up with top of the line motoring and one gets an epic combination of style, class and charisma. Here’s a quick run up of a shoot we did early in January 2013 which has got us on the world map.

Ever visited a quarry? We did, epic thanks to our friend and fellow motoring enthusiast Vikram Dhoot. Dust, grime and amazing chicken curry led to the shots you will see below. We decided to go four wheeled this time!

We spent the day (and night) at this mammoth mortar making quarry. Not only were we breathing through our T-shirts all the time but this shoot was a proper dust test for our equipment as well. We had quite a few cars lined up as part of this shoot but today we talk only about one very special machine.

The vehicle is a 1980’s Mercedes Benz W123-200. Enjoy.

As the Sun set, we finished our tour of the premises and settled down for a spot of tea (we love our tea!). Our team now consisted of one photographer and more than ten accompanying enthusiasts. We slotted the Mercedes sedan for the night.

It was essential to take the surroundings into our photographs. The amount of dust on the vehicles was also something we tried working into the shots.

So here we go.
Quarry kid

Alive!

The image is alive. So is the processing plant at the quarry. We shot this image at about 12am and boy, was it an experience!

The sky was at its acme of clarity and so the following picture was inevitable. This was a welcome change from our usual motorcycling infused travel photography. We tested a bunch of new camera equipment too, the pictures you see here are all shot with a brand new Nikon D800! Check out the view!

80's motoring

The epitome of 80’s motoring in India!

If you haven’t already noticed, the car is a Left Hand Drive W123-200. This particular car is a 2 litre, four cylinder petrol. From North America and across the world to Japan, this car has seen almost every terrain the world can offer. The W123 was the most popular Mercedes sedan of its time, selling more than 6 million units! Which brings us to our next photograph.

Shooting the star

The star.

In one day, this photograph championed more than 40000 likes and favourites on Facebook and Instagram. This one image registered more than two million views. Mercedes Benz, Stuttgart, themselves pinged us and asked for the picture. This, friends, is the next step.

June 2013 Update:

These pictures have now gone on to become the face of Mercedes Benz Museum’s Classic car photo competition!

Like the Mercedes Benz Museum facebook page HERE.

View and participate here: http://mb4.me/ShootingStars

They even named the Photography competition after our article! Enjoy!

We thank:

The motorcycle men and women of the Firelords – for their ever awesome, ever annoying and forever dear to us assistance.

Vikram Dhoot – for the hot food, his car and his quarry.

Mercedes Benz – for their fantastic motoring.

If you have an awesome car and want awesome photography, get in touch!


Accidentally awesome photos!

CHANDRESH KUDWA

Photography & luck, the eternal duo.

We’ve all been lucky. We’ve all landed up with pictures that we love out of sheer luck haven’t we? One just has to admire the presence of luck in photography. It carries us through some of our most challenging photographic moments.

There are a few per-requisites to getting these sometimes surprising images.

First and foremost:

Well, there’s your camera. You don’t need a so called ‘high-end’ camera, really. What you will need however is a camera which is ready for a shot at all times. Fully charged and ready to roll.

All DSLRs these days have a stand-by mode. Like in my Nikon, the stand-by mode keeps the camera sleeping. The moment I need to take a picture, one press of any button will get it out of its slumber and ready to fire.

What’s even more important is that your camera be configured in such a way that it’s ready for all scenarios. You don’t want to be fidgeting with the settings to get the ISO down and the aperture up in case you need to point the lens at the Sun.

The solution to that problem is to keep the camera set to ‘auto’ or ‘P/Program’, when you’re not shooting something in particular, obviously. Let the camera do the work, it’s faster than your fingers in situations where you may have all but one second to point, compose and shoot.

As this black and white image demonstrates, being unprepared is not always a bad thing. (not that I condone it)

Two faced tide.

Two faced tide, Zanzibar, Africa.

This photograph, taken from the Forhodani Park in Stone Town, Zanzibar, showcases the simple life of the fishing community here. Every morning they head out with their sails open while the sun is still yawning into its rise. They return with the days catch in the evening, fresh and ready to go onto any of the stalls which line the lanes of the Forhodani park.

This is a much adored photograph from my portfolio but the harsh truth about this photograph is that this was a highly over-exposed frame. Shot in RAW, when this image came up in the scroll, there was little my mind could think about doing. The highlights were too bright, the blacks looked as if they came straight out of a can of oil paint.

The first thing that I did was to instantly rid it of all saturation (you know, cut my losses and use what I have). The next step came as a surprise even to me, I bumped up the exposure even more till the ocean looked almost like a sketch. You can even spot the horizon if you’ve got a good pair of eyes. As a result came out this picture postcard image of a Dhow.

Having the camera set to manual and not prepared for this type of photograph actually helped me capture this rather representative image. I was lucky. The unorthodox processing of this image saved the day.

Timing is everything, true.

There’s no getting away from it. Your shutter release has got to be absolutely on the money at that second when it’s all supposed to happen. Miss it and all you’ll have is a photograph which could.

Get it right though and you’ll be jumping with joy after you finish processing the picture. There again is that element which we all love to hate – luck.

The spirit of the desert.

Spirit of the desert. Rajasthan, India.

Easily one of the top 5 favourites from my recent trip to Rajasthan, India. I pride myself on the exquisite timing of this photograph.

I’m feeling lucky:

There have been a few times that I have ended up depending on luck. Some frown upon that but who gives a damn? They say that the photographers who rely on luck are not true photographers, they’re just trigger happy shooters. I think whoever says this is right, only to an extent though.

You see, I started shooting with a manual camera and its bathed in wasted film (and money!) disappointments. Back then it was only those ‘lucky’ shots that kept egging me on to shoot more.

Even the urge to try and better understand the nuances of making a well thought out and calibrated photograph was fueled by those few perfect photos. All thanks to luck.

Kumbhalgarh

A bad photograph gone good. Kumbhalgarh Fort, Rajasthan, India.

I didn’t even know I had taken this shot. I was busy watching the sound and light show at the fort (hence the lighting). The camera was set up on a tripod right next to my seat. With a wired remote-release in my hand I kept clicking, only occasionally changing the tilt to adjust my frame. The reason I love this photograph is that everything in the frame is perfectly out of focus. Yes! Look closely and you’ll see. Yet somehow, this image works. You can even see the milky way!

Light and Luck:

When shooting outdoors, these two factors can mean the world to a photographer. Also, no one has complete control over either. That’s what’s amazing if you actually do end up with a good photograph. Sometimes even the worst hours of light can yield a good photograph. Don’t be apprehensive about shooting at noon or under thick cloud cover. Go for it, regardless.

Oh! Zanzibar.

Living on an island. Zanzibar, Africa.

Shot at the top of noon, this photograph came as a surprise. Background: It was hot, I was sweating it with all my camera gear on my back and I was on a beach with no shade. On a motorcycle ride across the island, I had little control over the time I reached a particular destination. Look at this picture, see the shadows and you’ll know it was shot at 12PM on the dot. This photograph was a stepping stone for me towards realising the possibilities of shooting with harsh light.

Wing it!

Sometimes though, one just has to forget everything and swing for the fence. Like in this photo here, shot at Hampi in Karnataka, India.

The Virupaksha Temple, at Sunset.

Jewel in the crown. Virupaksha Temple, Hampi, India.

Almost 2 kilometers away from my subject and on top of a hill. The place where I was standing had absolutely no space to move around and get the Sun perfectly resting in the Temple’s crown. To get this particular shot, I had to literally hang off the hill and try to shoot with one hand stretched out as far as possible. The Sun too would stay in the correct position for a very short while only, I had very little time to execute. Adding to my problems was the 300mm lens that I was using! It took about 10 shots till I got this photograph. Which could have been taken in a better way, if I had a helicopter or something. (wink!). After I got the photograph and a few other shots, I spent the night ogling at my camera screen!

So there you have it. Go ahead and be lucky!

Go beyond.The Enfield in us. Hedvi.Somewhere I can find peace.


Flashback Zanzibar.

A much delayed article. A year late, to be precise. There are some things in life that happen out of the blue. Like this brilliant (professional) life starting trip. I got to work with two of the most accomplished and inspiring editors I know. Read on to find out about Zanzibar and my 30 day trip to the island in early 2011.

Flashback Zanzibar!

As a photographer, I had decided that Africa was a place I’d visit only when I felt completely prepared. It’s an overwhelming continent, something I’m sure everybody knows already. More so for a photographer I can report. Thing is, with its grave prospects for downright dumbfounding photography (for the viewer and photographer alike), the continent of Africa had intimidated me for quite some time. I had hence decided within my head that I would venture into that part of the world only when I, as a photographer, was better ready.

All that changed in an instant when I received my confirmation email from Mambo Magazine. Mambo was a travel/culture online magazine based in Zanzibar, Tanzania. Yet again, my life had managed to trump my game plan but I wasn’t complaining! I was to spend a month on the Island of Zanzibar, interning as a photographer and writer. I took off.

When you first reach the Island of Zanzibar, you may feel like this is not the quintessential African destination but rest assured. Zanzibar is as African as Africa gets. There is wildlife, there is culture and there is the experience of a lifetime.

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Getting there

Zanzibar lies about 35 miles off the coast of Dar-es-Salaam, a part of Tanzania in east central Africa. I took a 20 minute flight to Zanzibar from Dar-es-Salaam. One can also opt for the ferry which takes about 2 hours to get you there. Both options invite you into this grove of uniqueness with absolutely stunning vistas. Whether you look at it from the air or while racing across the Indian ocean, this archipelago is a treat for the senses.

Once on land I found that life here is laid back. Nobody here is in a hurry, ‘Pole pole’ as they say, slowly slowly. People here are friendly and are completely at ease with tourists. Tourism being the main industry in Zanzibar, the main town known as Stone Town revolves around the traveller.

In Stone Town one notices how life here is like any other tourist town but with a slight twist. Zanzibar is home to many different ethnicities, right from Indians to people from the Middle East and of course the African Swahili. The various cultures and people here coexist in a beautiful mixture that is bound to catch your attention and keep you enthralled. As you walk through the maze of narrow streets and lanes that is Stone Town, you will see small shops on both sides of your path selling local art and souvenirs. One can find scintillating paintings of the forests and the Masai and even abstract which are capable of capturing the attention of the most discerning connoisseur.

Road side shoppe

Street side!

For the food loving kind, the by-lanes of Stone Town offer authentic Swahili street food in addition to the retro barbeque and grilled preparations of sea food and meats. Make your way to Forhodani park and you will be treated to tens of vendors selling grilled sea food such as fish, shrimp and octopus right off the grill!

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Forhodani Bbq!

A dish called ‘Urojo’ is a local delicacy, it is a savoury soup and is very healthy and filling – perfect for the weight-watchers. Kassava chips are a popular local munch. If you’re a little fussy, almost every cuisine in the world can be found here, right from the best pizza and pasta from Italy to lassi and tava biryani from India. If you’re feeling lavish, head to the Serena Inn, a Stone Town five star, for a pint of Kilimanjaro. Overlooking the ocean, this little escapade will refresh you at any time of the day.

Title Shot for the bar.

A pint of Kili

Stone town is also home to a lot of beach cafes, such as the Livingstone. It sits right next to the ferry terminal and hence is always surrounded by interesting happenings, the staff of the Livingstone will also make sure that your time at the resto-bar is worthwhile and that you leave with a stomach full of grub and a spring in your step.

The Livingstone Beach Cafe.

The Livingstone Cafe

The Swahili culture is a very unique one indeed. The women here wear colourful attires and although shy at first, they won’t mind if you ask before taking a picture. Even the clothes worn by the locals have interesting angles to them. The ‘Kanga’, a type of head gear worn by the local women has interesting quotes printed on them which have a hidden meaning. Women communicate amongst themselves and with their husbands and friends using these Kangas, without speaking a single word!

Let's buy some furniture in Zanzibar!

Vibrance in cloth

Zanzibar is the birth place of Swahili. The language is not too tough to grasp for the average traveller, basic Swahili is easy to pick up. ‘Jambo’ a word which means hello, ‘asante’ which means thank you and for Indians, ‘Pilli Pilli’ which stands for chilli is enough to get you through your vacation in paradise here. Even if you’re not a language person, the cheerful spirit and energetic charm of the locals will coax you into learning a few words. Don’t be surprised if you hear people using some Hindi words, for instance the word ‘bas’ stands for enough, just like in Hindi.

Jambo!

Jambo!

You get the full tourist experience in Stone Town but if you want to see the real thing, head out. I recommend renting an SUV and taking a drive across the island. That way one gets a chance to really gain a feel for Zanzibar. But, even that is a tad touristy if you ask me.

For the hard-core traveller who really wants to discover this place inside out, I suggest you hop onto a ‘Dalla-Dalla’ or a local bus and hang on! These are small Toyota trucks modified to carry a monumental number of passengers. It’ is the perfect way to break the ice between you and the experience. These trucks/busses are the lifeline of the island. Make sure you loose your inhibitions before hopping on though!

Do the Dala Dala!

Do the Dala Dala!

Being the biker I am I took a six day motorcycle ride across the island and its various beaches/villages. A motorcycle ride according to me is the best way to experience the openness and beauty of Zanzibar. The exhilaration of riding along the smooth roads which mostly run parallel to the coast and feeling the cool ocean breeze is incomparable to any other pleasure. Every spot on the island has a completely different feel. I spent a month here and still can’t wait to get back. Read more about my motorbike ride here: The Magical Motorcycle Tour.

Biking it in Africa!

Bikin’ it in Africa!

The villages are a complete contrast to the town. Hardly any shops, empty roads and the sounds of the Ocean. Stay on the east coast for a couple of days and experience the beautiful sunrises over the calm waters of the Indian Ocean.

Go beyond.

Sunrises here leave one speechless.

Party? Make your way to Kendwa – it’s the party king of Zanzibar. A great place to chill out and meet fellow travellers. On the west coast, you will be treated to amazing sunsets every evening. Rest assured, you’ll have a story to tell from here!

The penultimate eve.

Postcard sunsets

Distances are short here, if you’re in a car. In a couple of hours one can cross the entire island from North to South. The roads are good too but once you’re in a village, be prepared to ride through some sandy patches. It is all great fun though.

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Road to nirvana! Wink!

Zanzibar also has great wildlife. The Jozani national park in the centre of the island is home to the African Red and Black Colobus monkeys. If you are lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the native Blue Monkey. The guides of the park will take you through the forest foliage and past huge centuries old Baobab trees. They will help you track down the whereabouts of these playful tree dwellers.

The African Red Colobus Monkey.Who are you?

The Red Colobus and Blue Monkeys.

If you have the guts, head to the Zala Park. Zala is a reptile sanctuary managed by two inspiring locals who have dedicated their lives to conserving wildlife on the island. The park is home to some of the most dangerous snakes in the world like the Green Mamba and the Cobra. Who knows, you might even get to hold one.

The snake man.Untitled

Zala Reptile Park!

Dolphin tours are also very popular with the tourists here but there is a catch. The excessive tours operated here, some say, are leading to the detriment of the dolphin population. I steered clear of this option to be honest. If you’re lucky, sitting on one of the pristine beaches of this wonder island, you might just get to see the dolphins playing out in the ocean.

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The southern shore

Take the sea safari on the east coast though. That will give you a guided insight into the daily life of the people living in the coastal regions and will take you close to the culture of the real Swahili Zanzibaris. See how the local women make a living by farming seaweed and making rope from coconut fiber. It’s quite the learning curve!

Sea Safari.

Sea Safari!

When you want more, take some Swahili cooking lessons. Learn what they eat, how they cook and help do it. Enjoy a cosy meal with one of the local families, right in their home. Take in the cheerful hospitality while you drink coconut water and talk to the family. On this island, even a month is less time!

Be it for the honeymooners, backpackers or even adventure freaks, with its myriad avenues when it comes to that extra ordinary travel experience, Zanzibar will see you bowled over. Whether you are looking for a week away in a foreign land or even planning to take your family along for a different kind of trip, my suggestion is, head to Zanzibar and let the Swahili vibe take over.

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Perfect mornings

For me, Zanzibar was an eye opener. Mambo and I did a photography workshop on the last day of my trip. It was the first time I was going to be teaching! The workshop was a roaring success! House full!

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Cameras love Zanzibar!

In more ways than one this trip managed to force open my mind and instill in me the confidence needed for the coming year and it’s travel. Africa does that to you. Do visit, it’ll do you a world of good.

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Karibu Zanzibar!

To see more pictures from Zanzibar – Click here.

Links:

Top ten photographs from my trip to Zanzibar – The Zanzibar Post.

An in-depth Island experience: The Magical Motorcycle Tour.

Swahili cooking: Click here to read.

The Sea Safari: What lies beneath.

Travel article in the Pune Mirror on Zanzibar by Nipun Srivastava: Click here to read.

For any further information regarding travel/cuisine/entertainment/safety in Zanzibar, contact: www.Mambomagazine.com


Rooh – E – Rajasthan: My Journey Home!

Part 8 of Rooh – E – Rajasthan.

To read part 7 – Click here.

To read part 6 – Click here.

To read part 5 – Click here.

To read part 4 – Click here.

To read part 3 – Click here.

To read part 2 – Click here.

To read part 1 – Click here.

Lets go home.

ROOH - E - RAJASTHAN

Twenty eight wonderful days had been spent on the roads and in the cities of Rajasthan. On this special motorcycle journey I had led a much disciplined and regulated life. You know, going to sleep early to get up in time for the sunrise more often than not. Also to leave early to reach the next destination on time.

My last morning here was different. I didn’t wake up on time. Three lines of alarms failed to get me out of my snooze on this day. I woke up with a jolt at nine AM when my mum called to check whether I’d left Udaipur.

I mean wow, I felt like even Rajasthan didn’t want me to leave. Letting me be as I revelled in deep slumber.

After I was awake however, it was a mad rush to get on the road. It took me an hour to get to the bike and load up. Hurriedly, I said my thank you to the hotel staff, tipped my favorite waiter and rolled on towards the highway.

Sooner than you’d think, with my bikes’ engine warmed up and us riding smoothly on the highway into Gujarat, I was again thinking back to the time I’d had in Udaipur and Rajasthan as a whole.

What can one say? When a place known for its harsh climate and shifting sands embraces you with a large heart, one can only feel humbled.

My motorcycle ride around Rajasthan had grounded me like no other escapade of mine. Only a long string of adjectives could probably describe what I felt or maybe even that would fall short of truly expressing how liberated I felt.

Homeward bound!

Homeward bound!

RAJASTHAN

The Land:

A complete and absolute assault on the senses. A place tailor-made for the wanderer and ponderer alike.

Rooh - e - Rajasthan 2011.

The sands of Sam

The people:

Positively one of the best behaved and most polite in India. Most cultures boast of being hospitable and caring but the folk of Rajasthan truly personify hospitality. They embrace their roots. One has to admire the people who respect and hold in such high regard their own culture, music and place of belonging.

Nakki lake.

The music of Abu

The food:

To be brutally honest, across the length of my trip, the food I had was mediocre. There were some stars though. Like the LAAL MAANS atop Nahargarh Fort in Jaipur or the super spicy Aloo ka parantha at Dudu! Even the Chaat at the Gol Piyau in Ajmer is worth a special mention.

The mehrangarh fort.

Food and thought

The experience:

It was just a thought two years ago, today Rooh – E – Rajasthan is one of my favorite pieces of work!

The rider and I.

A ride to remember!

Rajasthan was a challenge at first. A personal feat I have to say. Like one gets used to the temperature of water after diving in, I got used to Rajasthan’s ever-changing vibe. From the serene desert sands of Jaisalmer and Sam to the chaotic city life of Jodhpur and the commercial holiness of Pushkar, the feeling of finding myself in a different situation was ever present.

I rode on smooth straight roads, through suffocating sands over vanishing roads, atop camels, walked barefoot on warm evening sand, became a part of the music, made friends from different cultures and countries even, spent a month amongst strangers who I now call my own.

I felt more Indian than I’d ever felt before. I felt more human and alive than I’d ever felt before.

Favorite incident:

Chancing upon two musicians in Jaisalmer who became friends and delighted me with their art. Etienne ‘Suryaneel’ Lauth and Hariram Bhopa. They were as absorbed in their art as a glass of cold water would be in hot sand, they taught me to forget about the world and do what the heart asks. Let me not comment on the brilliance of their music as it was just beyond word.

Music in motion.

Etienne (Suryaneel) and Hariram

Most remembered photographic moment:

Shooting atop desert dunes.

As the sun went down over the horizon made up of curvy dues stretching out till the eyes could see, shooting here was a refreshing experience. I walked atop the dunes barefoot, letting the coarse grains of sand caress my sole. It ended up touching my soul. I felt peace.

The camel and its jockey.

The camel and its jockey

Shot of the trip:

Camels around my motorcycle on the highway. On my way from Ajmer to Jaipur. The image sums up my journey in a nutshell. The ride, the road and Rajasthan.

The final shot!

A different trip.

Three most loved Photographs of the trip:

My top three most adored photographs from Rajasthan, each of these photos represent a facet of my journey. Not just when it comes to storytelling but also technically. Each of these photographs have hours of effort behind them and also more technique has been used compared to any average image.

AamerROOH - E - RAJASTHANKumbhalgarh.

Aamer.                                                  Sam and sand.                                          Kumbhalgarh.

Best biker moment:

Looking at the road end and sand begin.

Where the road ends and the sand begins.

Sand locked

Final Haul home!

After about seven hours of riding through the morning and afternoon I had crossed into Gujarat and was soon closing on my night halt for the day – Ankleshwar. The town of Ankleshwar is built around industry and also happened to be my rest stop at the beginning of this ride. As I approached the town on my motorcycle I got stuck in a traffic jam! On the six lane highway, it was a situation I’d never been in. After about half an hour and probably moving only about ten meters forward, I decided to turn around on the same road and get off the highway. Yes it was dangerous but a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. I rode on the wrong side of the road for a kilometer or so and reached an exit. Then I managed to find my way through another town which lay adjacent to Ankleshwar.

They say that everything happens for a reason and it’s true. As I rode through this unknown town towards Ankleshwar, I found myself at the start of a long and narrow bridge which stood over a wide river which I had to cross. The evening traffic was so much that I was literally wiggling my way through. As I rolled on to the bridge, a perfect and round golden yellow almost orange Sun greeted me to my right. Its reflection off the river was relaxing to say the least. I wanted to stop right there and click some pictures but there was absolutely no space and the traffic behind me was menacing. I had no choice but to store the memory in my head and move on. Just that bit of beauty was enough to take away the pain of my now eight hour long motorcycle ride out of Udaipur.

I was on my way home now. I stayed the night in a hotel and then pushed my bikes’ performance to the limit for the home run. She was close to seizing up, my motorcycle, I could feel it. An 8AM cold start is the last thing I wanted for her straining engine but we now had to crank it up and get home. On the highway again and racing towards the outskirts of Mumbai and Thane, we hardly took any stops. My mind was alight with questions about whether we’ll reach home on our own steam. I kept the throttle jammed open, the motorcycle responded like she knew what were trying to do, get home.

My motorcycle knew the fact that the trip was over and this was the most important part. Getting home often is. She probably knew that the only place she’d get the attention she deserved would be at the workshop in Pune and so we cracked on through the mid day sun. Soon we crossed into Maharashtra and then by noon reached the turnoff to Pune.

I stopped for lunch and also to give my motorcycle one final cooling rest before we hauled it to Pune. After lunch, getting back on the bike, I told her not to give up on me on this absolute last leg of 200 kilometers. It’d be a pity if we couldn’t get home now. These roads were known to the both of us, the team of man and motorcycle soldiered on till we reached the outskirts of Pune. One final water stop marked the end of my ride to Rajasthan. I was home.

At that overwhelming moment, what it felt like cannot be put in words. It was my longest ever solo motorcycle ride. An overall distance of about 5000 kilometers of motorcycling, tourism, photography and an experience of a lifetime had been achieved.

Just like Rana Pratap’s horse, Chetak, my motorcycle got me home and then proceeded to get herself to the workshop. Only then did she let her condition take the better of her. She’d gone through a lot, the desert heat, the grains of sand and my constant whims. It had been an epic challenge for her too. What a machine! What a personality and how amazing that she understood her rider just the way he was. The Marauder!

The places I missed:

Yes, believe it or not, there are a lot of places I didn’t visit on this trip. Rajasthan is huge and trust me when I say it is worth spending a sizable part of one’s life here. Each corner has it’s own story, it’s own people and it’s own shade of sand. When you go, keep in mind these places that I didn’t get a chance to go to.

Why didn’t I go?

Time was a major reason for skipping places like Bikaner and Alwar. Sometimes it so happened that I found out about a place only after I’d passed it, like Bundi and Gagaria. Rajasthan is like a big bundle of surprises, each place you go to can hide amazing sights which someone in a hurry may never uncover. The step wells in Jodhpur make up one such site. I only found out about them just before leaving. Thanks to my friend Oindrila Mukherjee – an avid traveller, I can share a few pictures which will demonstrate what a beautiful place I missed not to mention a fantastic photo-opportunity.

Step wells at Jodhpur

Step wells at JodhpurStep wells at Jodhpur

Photographs by Oindrila Mukherjee.

The thing is, it’s sometimes okay not to have seen a place in its entirety. For me personally I try to explore for myself as much as I can but then again – I’m the imperfect traveller. These places I’ve missed just make sure that one day I will head back. Because I’ve fallen in love with the land.

Seema Samaapt.

Rajasthan limit ends.

For more pictures: Click here.

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In this article:

Number of nights: Ankleshwar = 1.

Distance travelled: Udaipur – Akleshwar – Pune = 860 kms.

Motorcycle condition: She survived! We did it. Crank assembly changed, block-piston kit changed, complete engine and mechanical overhaul done.

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People I thank:

The Firelords, Pune – A motorcycle owners’ club of sorts.

Mount Abu:

Nathu ji – Musician.

Barmer:

Mr Madhav Singh Rajpurohit, Staff at Hotel Madhav Paradise.

Jaisalmer:

Mr Hariram Bhopa, Mr Kadam Singh – RTDC, Mr Etienne ‘Suryaneel’ Lauth, Mr Bismillah Khan and troupe, Sultan Bhai – Camel herder, staff at RTDC Moomal.

Jodhpur:

Mr Pankaj Srivastava – Punjab National Bank, Mr Kishor Kumar – RTDC, staff at RTDC Ghoomar, Bansiraam – folk musician, Mrs Laali Mukherjee.

Ajmer/Pushkar:

Mrs Geetam Saxena. Staff at RTDC Sarover – Pushkar.

Jaipur:

Mr Ajay Saxena – RTDC. Staff at RTDC Teej.

Chittaurgarh:

Manager – RTDC Panna, RTDC staff at the Chittaurgarh fort.

Udaipur

Mr Narayan. Staff at RTDC Kajri.

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Some travel for pleasure, some for adventure. Some go for others, I go for me.

The End.


Southern Rajasthan.

Part 7 of Rooh – E – Rajasthan.

To read part 6 – Click here.

To read part 5 – Click here.

To read part 4 – Click here.

To read part 3 – Click here.

To read part 2 – Click here.

To read part 1 – Click here.

Udaipur

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Water. Wealth. Wonderful.

An easy and fulfilling ride along the smooth National Highway 76 brought me to the lake City of Rajasthan. Udaipur is a city with an open heart and welcomes everyone inbound with arms wide open. As you roll in, everything is where it needs to be. Even the people are helpful. Udaipur was to be my last stop. On this personal milestone of a trip, Rooh – E – Rajasthan, Udaipur was the last bastion of tourism I was to experience before turning that wheel towards home. It was symbolic of many things, this city of Udaipur.

As far as my motorcycle was concerned, she had gone into what seemed like a trance. She had made peace with her flailing condition and was bashing on regardless. She was surviving the length of the trip after all!

Getting back to the ride, the highway led me straight into the city and almost suddenly I found myself in local city traffic. You know, the kind where the breeze of the highway leaves your side and is replaced by the warmer city air, with that slight tinge of diesel. People on two wheelers are riding to and from work and the three-wheeled tempos are out to take over the world.

This time, my RTDC (Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation) home was a really good one. Well, compared to the rest I’d stayed at. In Udaipur, nothing is cheap. Thanks to RTDC I had awesome accommodation at a manageable price. Otherwise, the good hotels of Udaipur are known to be monumentally expensive.

I settled in, sorted myself for a four night stay and sat down for lunch. This was a busy place, the restaurant was abuzz with travellers, much a contrast from my previous destination Chittaurgarh. Food was laid out on one side with almost every table in the room full to its capacity. This told me something about Udaipur. Either the city is really something, that makes everyone want to be here or it has a pseudo charm like Mount Abu. I was counting on the former, bear in mind, I had seen nothing of Udaipur yet.

After lunch I put in some time and reorganized all my luggage and data. I recharged and cleaned my camera gear for the upcoming five day exposure to Udaipur’s charms.

Come evening, I was hungry to have a look around Udaipur. Kick starting the bike I dove deep into the city. Within 10 minutes, I found myself bang in the middle of the city markets. I took a lot of wrong turns and it took me a while to break into the city’s narrow streets and crowded ethos. I rode towards the famous Lake Pichola, home of the Taj Lake Palace Hotel. The hotel is a white palatial building in the middle of the Lake. Known for its overly luxurious stays and cuisine, any luxury travel mag doing a feature on Rajasthan will have the Taj’s lavish rooms in it.

The Jag Mandir. Udaipur.

The Jag Mandir palace.

As I made my way, the city was revealed to me. Udaipur sits amidst the hills and is blessed with lakes between its pockets of population. At the banks of the Lake Pichola, a guide told me some facts about the lake and the hotel. Also, the Jag Mandir palace stood in the middle of the lake. It is essentially a pleasure palace. The kings would treat it as their summer resort or use it for throwing parties. Sadly, on this day, the lake was closed to common folk. Because madam Shakira was to perform for a businessman’s birthday bash which was being held on the Jag Mandir island complex. Preparations were on full swing with rigging crews all over the lake putting up fireworks.

This was my first clue about the reality of Udaipur.

Not being able to get onto the water and photograph the evening Sun was a huge turn off for my excitement. No matter, my guide took me to a place from where he thought I would get a good shot of the lake. It was a garden up on a small hill but the problem was it’s foliage. The trees restricted me from getting a clear shot. Here’s where my second clue about Udaipur came to light. When you’re here, don’t take a guide. The information you are given is sketchy to say the least. Although they mean well, the guides seldom realize themselves that they are wasting a tourist’s time and money actually. I made my way back to my hotel through the various city streets yet again. I wasn’t all that happy to be honest. Hope was that Udaipur would be the cherry on the icing for my trip.

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Edge of understanding.

Though there was still a lot to see around Udaipur. Slowly I was realizing that Udaipur was a city of money, for money and probably even run because of money. The class difference was apparent in the tourism of the town itself. Up until now Rajasthan and its destinations had offered to me a lot of substance. Not just history but a lot more to take home in my head. Udaipur, though it has the history if you’re interested, will first give you the golden handshake. This place does not embrace its past, it uses its past.

I managed to reach my hotel just before dusk, called for my tea and started talking to the people at the hotel about the avenues for exploration around here. As I spoke to the hotel staff about the city, everyone from the waiter to the manager agreed with me when I mentioned my first impression. Realizing that I wasn’t all too interested in staring at the city’s facade, everyone gave me suggestions as to what I may like. My waiter gave me the best advice, he told me to head out of Udaipur itself. Soon, I had a plan, an ambiguous one but a direction to head into nonetheless.

The plan went into action that very evening. I head out into the city again, reached one of its star restaurants and found myself a table. This restaurant was touted as one of the best owing to its panoramic view of the Lake Pichola. Just for fun, I won’t tell you the name of the restaurant. Rest assured, some digging on your part when you’re in Udaipur will land you at this waters edge bistro. The prices here are high and the food is ordinary. It’s the view they charge you for.

Udaipur City Palace and The Taj Lake Palace Hotel.

The Udaipur City Palace and The Taj Lake Palace.

The view was good indeed, one could see the Taj Lake Palace Hotel and the Udaipur City Palace in all their glory and on this night, the lighting for the upcoming concert was being tested – that added major drama to some of my photographs. What an evening it turned out to be! So many people came up to me in this outdoor setting and asked me about most things under the sun. Right from my photography to my travels, even the motorcycle caught their attention. After about an hour of shooting and talking with strangers, I sat down at my table for dinner. Here too, the waiter serving me had his own questions about my journey. He kept me company and made sure there was never a dull moment during dinner. Those of you who actually do manage to find this restaurant, you’ll like the vibe it offers.

I got lost in the city a couple of times while on my way back to the RTDC hotel. It was late and I too took my own sweet time finding my way. There was something about Udaipur which I hadn’t felt in any other city. Being in Udaipur felt like walking on a heavily trodden grassy path which gives way to mud because of the sheer use of its presence. That’s what Udaipur truly felt like to me – an overused city. What caused it to be overused and how, that was still a vague question and I had some time to figure it out.

Night was peaceful and the next morning came with me waking up early and chalking out the days tourism. Udaipur woke me up with a calm caress. Chirping birds and whistling winds made my morning real pleasant. I walked out into my balcony and tried shooting some birds and squirrels, all while sipping on tea.

Good morning Udaipur!

Good morning Udaipur!

Udaipur ki Chai

Chai lo.

Tea, was now one of the most important things in my life. For that matter, almost every biker/traveller will tell you that tea is what makes the journey that much more awesome. Each cup tastes different, the aroma of the hot golden potion is different in every land. And that my friends is the only second reason a biker stops on the side of the road to take a break. Tea is also sometimes the sole reason for a trip, it’s that important to us motorcycle boys.

Day one: Saas – Bahu Temples.

This day, I booked myself a cab. I wanted to give my motorcycle a little r and r before we made our way back home, a journey of over 800 kilometers. A car arrived and for the first time on this entire trip, I had the luxury of keeping my camera gear off my shoulders. I was paying through my nose for the exclusive cab but I knew, in the long run, it’d be worth it. My first destination were some temples a little distance away from the city of Udaipur. A small village called Nagda was our first stop. The temples, known as Saas – Bahu (or mother-in-law – daughter-in-law) temples, were a rather inspiring place to start off my photography.

Saas Bahu Temples

Interior of one of the temples.

This temple complex, although small, has the power to get your creative juices flowing. Dedicated to the Lord Vishnu, these medieval buildings inspire intrigue with their mind numbing architecture. The carvings and sculptures here are so very detailed that it’s easy to get lost standing in one spot. Everywhere you look, inside or outside, the place and its intricacies are mesmerizing. It is a peaceful place to spend some time, if you have it.

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The temples and the lawns.

The light here is another brilliant companion to any photo maker. Take my word for it, the illumination on the heavily carved stone is almost intoxicating.  This was the first place I’d visited and already I wished I’d brought my motorcycle. What pictures I could have made!

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You could get lost standing in one spot.

The town of Nagda is also home to a much revered Temple of Eklingji. A place where they don’t let even cellphone cameras inside. A place like that has no room for someone like me I think, so I did not go in. Those with a religious bent might not want to do the same. If you don’t mind heading in without your camera, do go and check it out. To some, this temple complex is an architectural marvel. To me unfortunately, like the Dilwara Temple at Mount Abu, this too had to become a missed destination.

Eklingji

The Eklingji Temple entrance.

From Nagda, my driver and I made our way to the famous Haldighati, a historical battleground. Haldighati is named so because the color of the mud here resembles the color of turmeric, for which the Hindi word is Haldi. This mountain pass was made famous by the battle of Haldighati between Rana Pratap and the Mughal Army of Emperor Akbar. Many a story hail from that very battle but one of the most compelling is the story of Chetak – the king’s horse.

HaldighatiHaldighat ki mitti

The road to Haldighati.

Chetak was the beloved horse of Rana Pratap. It is this horse which carried an injured Pratap out of the battlefield despite it’s own injured leg. It is said that Chetak displayed unparalleled loyalty to his master and carried him a great distance on his three legs, only after he found that the Maharana was safe did he breath his last. Today, there stands a tomb dedicated to the royal horse, still lending glory to its supreme sacrifice. Known as the Chetak Chabutra or the Chetak Smark, it stands close to a local museum, which is dedicated to the story of Maharana Pratap of Mewar.

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The Chetak Chabutra.

This museum, though highly informative, is a very crude rendition of the story of Pratap. If you know the story, I’d suggest you skip the trip here. Go only if you have kids, they might enjoy it.

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The Rana Pratap museum.

That was day one. I came back to Udaipur quite tired from all the sight seeing and story studying. In the night I head out into the city to see if there was a place from where I could capture some sort of nightscape. I spent about an hour on the road inside the city but couldn’t find any good spot to set up. To be honest I did get some mediocre shots of the promenade but the city failed to please my senses on this night.

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Dinner.

I found myself a posh looking restaurant and settled for dinner. Payed a bomb for some mediocre food and left. Sleept like a log.

Day two: Out of the city again.

This day was to see me heading out of Udaipur again. This is true about Udaipur, there is more to see outside and around the city that inside its limits. Sure you have the Udaipur City Palace and the sound and light show there. There is also a temple up high on a hill near Lake Pichola but that’s about it. You have to head out to really enjoy what Udaipur has to offer. Since I also could not afford the luxuries of a five star and a ‘royal experience’ at one of the poshest hotels in the country, I head out. Again, I had booked myself a cab.

On this day, Mr Narayan – the owner of the cab company volunteered to drive me. He told me that he heard my story from his driver the previous day and wanted to meet me. He said ‘mai har uss aadmi se minla chahata hoon jisse mai kuch seekh sakta hoon’ or ‘I want to meet all the people from whom I can learn something’. I was flattered by this statement of his. Believe you me, our drive towards Kumbhalgarh fort was anything but mundane. Thanks to both our talkative personas, we kept jabbering our way through the afternoon drive.

The drive from Udaipur to Kumbhalgarh Fort revealed to me the green Rajasthan. 70 odd kilometers of country roads show you the agricultural side of Rajasthan. Lined with fields all through the roads to this old fort are a treat, not all that smooth but when you’re in India a road with potholes is just fine. This particular stretch of road is known to wind through some tribal dominated territory. They say one shouldn’t venture out alone all the way to Kumbhalgarh. It is a common practice that groups of vehicles travel in a cavalcade along this route.

Agricultural RajasthanGREEN RAJASTHAN

Rajasthan and agriculture.

One crosses some hills and forests on the way and the tribals have been known to pelt stones on passing vehicles, amongst other things. Well, Mr Narayan and I were so busy talking that we didn’t even realize that time had flown by and we we staring at the Kumbhalgarh fort in the distance.

It’s stunning. From a distance of about 5 kilometers, you can see the length of the fort wall across the frame of your vision. Amidst green hills and atop one of its own, stands Kumbhalgarh – The sentinel of Mewar.

We reached the fort a little before sunset. This light was perfect for taking pictures. We were also in time for the sound and light show which was held here everyday after sundown. I bought our tickets and we proceeded inside the fort walls.

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Evening light.

Slowly our climb began. Mr Narayan and I hired a guide who told us about the fort while we climbed up. I knew nothing about Kumbhalgarh before this day. The only reason I found myself here was that I was advised by my hotel staff to check this place out. Like most forts in Rajasthan, the Kumbhalgarh too was perched atop a hill. They say the walls of this fort stretch for a whole 36 kilometers around the structure! Huge! At vantage points, one can see the Aravalli hills stretch for miles and miles around this fort. Catching your breath is a pleasurable affair atop Kumbhalgarh.

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Climbing to the top.

Kumbhalgarh is important. It was built by Rana Kumbha of Mewar, hence the name. Also, this fort was the birthplace of Maharana Pratap, the warrior king of Haldighati fame. Another fact about the Kumbhalgarh fort is that it sits on this hill dividing the kingdoms or Marwar (Jodhpur) and Mewar (Chittaurgarh). The Fort also plays an important role in the formative history of Rajasthan. Kumbhalgarh provided refuge to prince Udai who was smuggled here by Panna Dhai when Chittaurgarh was under siege. Later, Udai took the throne post which he founded the city of Udaipur.

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Marwar and Mewar.

Thanks to the long drive from Udaipur, by the time we reached the top of the fort, the sun was just setting. We stayed put for a while and watched the sun go down. It is here that the fort of Kumbhalgarh played an interesting part in my personal journey.

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Sunset at Kumbhalgarh.

As I stood atop the highest pavilion and shot the sunset with my camera, a happy group of Israeli tourists joined me. We got talking about my camera and travel, made friends and the rest is history. The sun set and all of us made our way down to the foot of the fort. It was during our little downward trek that my friends and I really connected. It was time now for the sound and light show, I told my new found friends about the show and some of them joined us as we watched.

Ready for the sound and light show.

Sound and light magic.

The sound and light show here starts right after sunset and takes one through Rana Kumbha’s life and trials. As you sit facing the fifteen feet thick fort wall, the fort lights up all the way to the top and keeps one gripped as a voice narrates its history. The stories connects across the sands right from Udaipur to Chittaurgarh and Jaisalmer.

Kumbhalgarh

The Kumbhalgarh Fort and the Milky Way galaxy.

After the show, my friends and I decided to meet for dinner back at Udaipur. That sounded like a plan! Though something still needed doing before I left Kumbhalgarh.

Before we left Kumbhalgarh, I still had a couple of shots to get. Mr Narayan knew a spot a little distance from the fort from where he thought I would get my perfect shots. I was taken there and yes! I set up and 30 minutes later, I had my shots. Check them out below.

Kumbhalgarh

Kumbhalgarh and its unique stance.

A unique photograph I have to say. The area around the fort is completely unpopulated, hence, there is no stray light here. The dark you see around the fort has not been processed into it. It actually was that dark! The Kumbhalgarh Fort stands out at night like a golden crown atop the Aravalli hills. Beautiful.

The second shot is what I call a mini star trail. Owing to the lack of time, I could not go all out and shoot a longer exposure. Thanks to the threat of leopards and foxes in the dark, we had to get a move on.

Kumbhalgarh

The mini star trail, Milky Way lighting up the sky.

Yet again, the drive back saw Mr Narayan and I conversing about the day’s experiences. Everything from my photographic aims to our newly made friends were part of our banter. A pleasant drive reached us back to Udaipur at around 10 pm. I was in the groove this evening, it had been a stellar day. I backed up the shots I had taken and got my gear ready for the next day’s shooting. Soon, I got a call from Amit, my Israeli friend. Our dinner plan was a go. At about 10:30pm I roared out into the Udaipur night.

Finally, all of us had the time to sit back and talk. They were a big group of about 6 to 8 travellers, we got talking. I, for one, was fascinated by Israel and its people – I always had been. I kept throwing question after question at them and they kindly tried replying to each one. I even learnt a little Hebrew! (swear words!) Next morning too, we met up for breakfast and the banter continued. I tried out an Israeli breakfast dish too. Called ‘shakshuka’, it’s made of tomato and a host of other veggies. Thanks to my new friends, I was now considering Israel as my next big travel destination. They have good motorcycles there, a brilliant coastline and I’ll bring my camera. Sounded like the perfect winter destination. Here’s hoping!

Here & now though, plans were being made for the day’s travel at Udaipur. There is so much you can do when you’re in a group I tell you!

Day three: Lake Jaisamand.

We decided we would all head to Jaisamand Lake, a suggestion made by Mr Narayan the previous day. An hour’s drive away from Udaipur city, Jaisamand is by far the most beautiful lake around. It is a huge water body, apparently unpolluted too. It is also Asia’s largest artificial lake, built by Rana Jai Singh of Udaipur.

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Lake Jaisamand.

Our drive to the lake was fun as all of us, including our chauffeur Mr Narayan (again!), were cracking jokes and talking about our travels all along. All the bumps along the road were levelled out by our spirited banter. We reached the banks of the lake a little before sunset, perfect timing if you ask me. Also, all of us were game for a nice, long boat ride across the lake. I too was eager to shoot some portraits of my friends. We negotiated the price for a boat ride with the boatmen and then set off. On the boat, we had along with us a few school children, interestingly, they lived on an island village in the middle of the lake! We wanted to check out the village too and the boatmen obliged us.

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Afloat on an artificial lake.

A thirty minute boat ride saw us chug across the pristine waters of the Jaisamand Lake. Everywhere I looked, it was a picture perfect scene. The sun was going down behind the hills as we reached the village.

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Chugging along.

This was an interesting village, water locked but apparently self sufficient. They had agriculture, dairy, accommodation and satellite TV! What was more interesting though was the fascination with village life visible amongst my fellow travellers. They were loving it.

ISLAND VILLAGE

Island village.

The light was now slightly lesser and so I started bumping up the ISO in all of my photographs. Grains came and made a nest in my camera’s sensor. The pleasure of being here was so intense though, that I didn’t mind. I was also mindful that we were nearing the end, my Tour-de-Sand was about to finish.

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Jaisamand lake is a good place to take pictures all through the day. Even after the sun goes down!

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This day was my last day in Udaipur. It was also my last day in Rajasthan because come morning, I would don my helmet and ride out. Ride out of Rajasthan.

Lake Jaisamand

Calm waters of the Jaisamand Lake.

We set off again in our red boat, heading back to the shore. It was time for some portraits! The girls were obviously my first choice but the guys were awesome too!

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In this photo: Marsim Cassar.

The drive back to Udaipur was calm. The wind was cool, night was dark and our spirits were high. Somewhere inside though, I felt sad. I had already begun saying my goodbyes to this beautiful land in my mind. Every second that I was here, in my head, I was reliving the moments I’d spent in Rajasthan. The dark drive served me well and in the haze of oncoming headlights I was able to zone out and recap the events of the past months escapades. I felt sad about leaving but I felt wonderful about being here. It was only natural, I had spent a month away from home and on the roads of Rajasthan.

Friends

In this photo: Friends (L to R) – Amit Maoz, Tsion Abu, Amit Feldman, Lia Hibner, Marsim Cassar.

Back at Udaipur, we dropped everyone and then I was dropped too. I bid goodbye to our trusty Mr Narayan and then head upstairs to pack. The evening wasn’t over though, my friends and I still had to take that one photograph of all of us together and dinner of course! My last night in Udaipur, I head out again. All of us met up and shared dinner and then it was time to leave.

At this point I must mention, Udaipur had been the most unique destination of all the places I’d been to in Rajasthan. The first couple of days were a real turn off for me personally. It felt like it was all about the money in Udaipur and it was. With the countless luxury hotels and everything here revolving around them, I was quite grumpy till I set out for Kumbhalgarh.

Friends from different lands!

Travellers of a feather.

Much like history itself, the Fort of Kumbhalgarh played a vital part in my endeavor too. It was in Kumbhalgarh that I met my new friends, it was there that the turn around took place. Udaipur had gone from being a budget travellers’ disappointment to a motorcycle traveller’s delight. All because of people like Mr Narayan and others who made me feel at home. Once again I realized, not every place is made by its sights. A place is good because of the good people you meet there. I considered myself monumentally lucky as in this lake city, time and money, both have to be on your side. I had some time and not much money but thanks to the people I met, coming here was well worth it.

Near the end here, Udaipur finally did make its way to the top as the perfect end to my time in Rajasthan. I left with a smile.

It’s not over yet!

Read on! – My journey home!

For more pictures from Udaipur: Click here.

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In this article:

Number of nights: Udaipur – 4.

Distance travelled: Chittaurgarh – Udaipur – Kumbhalgarh – Udaipur – Jaisamand Lake – Udaipur.  = 375 kms.

Motorcycle condition: The real question is, can she survive the ride home?

Next destination: My journey home! (Click here to read)


Tales from beyond the sands of time – Chittaurgarh.

Part 6 of Rooh – E – Rajasthan.

To read part 5 – Click here.

To read part 4 – Click here.

To read part 3 – Click here.

To read part 2 – Click here.

To read part 1 – Click here.

Chittaur

Through the fort wall.

History, is me.

By the time I reached the outskirts of this underexposed historical town, it was mid afternoon. The sun was right on top and bearing down with all its heat. Turning off the National Highway towards Chittaur was like exiting a party. The moment I was off, the rush of vehicles at high speed vanished. So did the smooth road actually. My first obstacle was a railway crossing. I had been standing there for quite a while waiting for the train to cross. Which it hadn’t, so I dismounted and stretched my legs. The train was nowhere to be seen.

The locals and I got talking. I broke the ice by asking them the way to the RTDC (Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation) Chittaur hotel. They gave me a general direction and then came back with questions of their own. Was my bike a bullet? Where was I coming from? What was I up to? And the most common of them all in India, what mileage did my motorcycle give me?

The train arrived in the midst of our banter as two or three strangers looked my bike over. I was resting against the bonnet of a truck as the cargo train passed the railway barricading ever so slowly. In a minute, I saddled up and got ready for my last little haul into Chitttaurgarh. A full thirteen kilometers of searching, stopping and asking for directions finally brought me to the unassuming gate of the RTDC Panna hotel here. This RTDC hotel looked as barren as the city. It was a Sunday and so all the shops were closed too. A vibe similar to Barmer prevailed over the entire city.

I got myself in to the hotel and settled in. 300 kilometers of highway riding hadn’t exhausted me enough I thought and decided that I might as well take an afternoon round around the city. I was only going to be here three nights so I felt the need to make the most of it. The hotel manager too, had started identifying with my adventurous streak. In his typical small town way, he told me that he was impressed. All over again I was humbled by this strangers’ praise. I realized how many people actually wanted to go out and do something like this but thanks to the rut of life, they didn’t.

Chittaurgarh Fort.

Chittaurgarh town.

My afternoon ride took me through random empty streets of Chittaur. I didn’t really see much. The heat was so oppressive that soon I decided that I’d rather take a nap, recharge myself and then hit the streets with the right verve. I over slept.

The next morning started early, with me heading out early enough to check out the Chittaurgarh Fort. Really the only true reason for me to visit this town. The Chittaurgarh Fort is not only a historical madhouse of information for seekers but also has a lot more to its credit. In terms of sheer size, it is probably the largest single fortified structure in India. As you close in, crossing the river Berach, the scale of this extraordinary building reveals itself. I stopped dead in my tracks, pulled out the camera and tried, in vain, to capture the fort’s length. This was the first time on this trip that I felt out of my depth, photographically. The size of the fort was just too big for my camera and skill. The time of day wasn’t helping either, there was a faint haze blocking the clear view of the fort. I had no choice but to move on into the fort and start exploring.

I rode on up into the fort walls and through the gates, something which I had now gotten used to. Each Rajasthani fort had it’s characteristic entrance gates. In Chittaur however, a paved road led through these gates into the fort premises, I rode my bike all the way into the center of the fort. This fort is at an elevation of about 500 feet from sea level and one can feel the temperature change slightly. At first, I couldn’t figure out what I was to do next. Yes I wanted to see the sights here but I didn’t know where they were. I took a full round of the fort on my motorcycle after which I found a ticket counter which had a map of the fort on it. That’s when I got my bearing. Honestly, I was still overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the structure.

Chittaurgarh Fort.

Ridin’ through.

I spoke to the people at the ticket counter for a while. Looking at their expressions I could instantly make out their assumptions about the kind of tourist I was. Three people were really interested in telling me about where the most interesting bits of the fort are and so I listened to them.

The Chittaurgarh Fort:

Chittaurgarh Fort.

Apart from its size, this fort has an abundance of stories within its mammoth walls. The fort is believed to be named after the Mauryan ruler Chitrangada Mori. For 800 years, Chittaur was the capital of Mewar and all through that period and beyond, the Rajput warriors of Chittaur painted an unsettling and moving picture. Death before defeat was their resolve. More than a few times this fort has seen defeat in its history. Yet, the lore of the men, women and children who hailed from this land never once fails to inspire awe.

As I spent time in the fort, three stories came up in front of me again and again. The tales of Mirabai, Queen Padmini and Panna Dhai. These were stories which, in a short while, made me realise the importance of Chittaur in Rajasthan’s history.

Mirabai:

Mirabai’s time at Chittaur was as the wife of Rana Kumbha. She was a devout follower of Lord Krishna and considered herself to be the wife of Krishna, hence she wasn’t too happy with her marriage. After Rana Kumbha’s death, she completely gave into her devotion to Krishna. She is believed to have spent her last years as a pilgrim at Dwarka but none really know where she disappeared.

The Mirabai temple:

The Mira Temple.

This is a beautiful temple dedicated to the saint-poet. Standing close to the Kirti Stambh, it is one of the most beautiful temples in Chittaur. In the early morning light, the intricate architecture gleams with unparalleled brilliance. Inside the temple, a representation of Meera, praying to her Lord Krishna, has been established.

The Kirti Stambh:

The Kirti Stambh and the Mira temple.The Mira Temple and Kirti Stambh from afar during sunset.

The Mira Temple and Kirti Stambh, in the morning (left) and just before sunset (right).

The Kirti Stambh is a 12th century monument, built by a Jain merchant. It stands close to the Mira Temple and is a beautiful piece of architecture, just like the Mira Temple itself. Both these monuments stand together in perfect accompaniment.

Jauhar:

The Rajput men chose to charge out of the walls of this fort into the enemy. Fighting to the last breath, preferring to die fighting than to accept defeat and live a life after surrender. This deeply ingrained Rajput trait leads on to another sorrowfully amazing tale of the women and children of Chittaur. Jauhar.

An ancient Indian practice of divine self immolation, performed by women and children of a particular Rajput clan, in the face of defeat of the defending army. It is often a common assumption that the act of Jauhar involved only the women and children of the kingdom but the truth is that Jauhar involved the Rajput warriors of the army as well. When it was eminent that defeat was inevitable, the women inside the fort performed Jauhar, after which the men charged out into the enemy committing Saka. Preferring to die fighting over enduring defeat.

Chittaurgarh Fort.

Dusk over the fort.

At Chittaur, Jauhar was performed a total of three times over it’s history. First by Rani Padmini and then the second by Rani Karnavati and finally the third when Chittaurgarh Fort was besieged by Emperor Akbar.

Rani Padmini and the Padmini Palace:

Chittaurgarh Fort.

Queen Padmini was considered the epitome of beauty in her time. Wife of the then commander of the Chittaurgarh Fort, Rana Rawal Ratan Singh, the stories of her beauty had transcended kingdoms. It was inevitable that the lure of her beauty caught the Mughal ruler Allauddin Khilji’s attention. Driven by his lust, he marched towards Chittaur to secure her as his queen.

Here is where an interesting tale begins, Khilji saw the brilliantly guarded Chittaurgarh fort and decided that he would try and acquire Rani Padmini without conflict. Khilji’s army was deterrent enough. He sent a message to the Rana that he considered Padmini his sister and wanted to see her. Looking at the Mughal army, the unsuspecting Rana Rawal Ratan Singh gave in to Khilji’s demand of getting a look at his wife, Queen Padmini. In those times, this was a rather shameful occurrence and hence Khilji was only allowed to see the queen in a mirror. Smitten by her beauty, he decided that he would not leave Chittaur without her as his queen.

Later, when the Rana went upto the outer limits of the fort to see off Khilji, he was arrested by Khilji’s soldiers and held in captivity. Queen Padmini soon got the message that she was now required to leave with Allauddin Khilji as his wife and that her husband was under captivity.

Enraged, she decided she would have none of it. In a brilliant countermeasure to Khilji’s deceit, Rani Padmini and the Rana’s men came up with an ingenious plan. In over a hundred palanquins, hid Rajput warriors, masquerading as the queen’s maids. They made their way to the Mughal army camp and attacked the camp, freed Rana Rawal Ratan Singh and brought him back to the security of the Chittaurgarh fort.

In the ensuing aftermath, Allauddin Khilji’s army laid siege to the fort but could not beat the fort’s defenses. Khilji kept up his unrelenting battle with the Rajput army until the fort’s supplies perished and there was no chance of a victory for the Rajputs of Chittaur. At this juncture, it was decided that the Rajput warriors would commit Saka, they would charge into the enemy and fight until death. Hearing this Queen Padmini and the Rajput women decided to commit Jauhar.

After the battle was over, all that Khilji’s lust driven army found upon entering the Chittaurgarh fort were burnt and charred remains of the women and children of Chittaur.

The Palace:

Chittaurgarh Fort.

The Padmini Palace is a white building which still stands today. There are gardens to welcome you as one approaches the main complex. The room with the mirrors, where Allauddin Khilji saw queen Padmini, is open to the public and one can even see those very mirrors, they still hang from the ceiling today.

Panna Dhai:

By far one of the most poignant stories from the land of Chittaur. Panna Dhai’s tale of sacrifice still manages to bring a tear to the eyes of many a mother today.

A 16th century Rajput woman, Panna was the nursemaid to Udai Singh (later, the founder of Udaipur, son of Sangram Singh). The word ‘Dhai’ in her name stands for wet nurse, she had been given charge of Udai Singh from his early childhood.

A different kinda place.

Chittaur. A historical panorama.

The story begins when Banbir, an exiled cousin of Udai Singh was appointed as regent of the kingdom keeping in light the arrest of Vikramaditya II. Banbir, who considered himself to be the rightful heir to the throne knew the time was right to act. He assassinated Vikramaditya II and was on his way to assassinate the already asleep 14 year old Udai Singh (the Maharana-elect), whose existence was the only barrier between Banbir and the throne of Mewar.

A servant hurriedly informed Panna of Banbir’s doings, Panna understood what Banbir was planning and told the servant to smuggle Udai Singh, the Maharana-elect, out of the Chittaurgarh fort. She instructed the servant to wait for her at a rendezvous point near the river. As the young Udai Singh was taken away from the fort, Panna placed her own son in Udai Singh’s bed and covered him. In time Banbir burst into the room and inquired about Udai Singh, she pointed at the bed where her son lay asleep, only to watch her own son being killed at the hands of Banbir.

Panna left the fort after her son’s hurried cremation and retook charge of Udai Singh from the servant, out by the river. Here began an epic trek for the duo who were only given proper refuge at the fort of Kumbhalgarh. Years later, Maharana Udai Singh went back to Chittaurgarh and assumed the throne.

A heroic feat of sacrifice and loyalty to the throne was showcased by Panna. But for her, the city of Udaipur (later founded by Maharana Udai Singh) would never have existed.

The Vijay Stambh or the Tower of Victory:

Chittaurgarh Fort.

This unique structure stands in the midst of some temples at the top of the fort. Built to celebrate victory over the ruler Mahmud Khilji by Rana kumbha, it is intriguing to say the least. The carvings on the inside and out are so very intricate that one can spend minutes just staring at a single part of this nine story tower.

For a fee of INR 5, one is allowed to venture inside the tower. Fair warning, this venture is not suited for people who suffer from claustrophobia. There is no room for two way pedestrian traffic inside. At some points the climb is pretty precarious, especially for me as I was carrying my hefty camera bag on my back. Getting shots was tough and so my trusty ultra wide angle lens came to the fore. Inside the tower, it is dark, dingy and well, stinky. There is constant movement of people and hence the 157 step climb from bottom to top is not all that easy. At the top though a big and windy room awaits you, I can’t say the view is panoramic because it’s blocked by the carvings on the windows but I’d still say it was worth it.

Chittaurgarh Fort.

View from the top.

After my descent, I spent the entire evening in the Vijay Stambh complex. The complex is also home to a few other Jain temples apart from the Stambh itself. The complex is also home to the Gaumukh (Hindi for: cow’s mouth) reservoir, this water body is fed by a natural spring, which flows through a carved cow’s mouth in the rocks, hence the name. During the various sieges the Chittaurgarh Fort endured, this water body was the primary source of fresh water for the population.

The fort wall and Gau mukh water source.The Vijay Stambh complex.

The GauMukh reservoir and the Vijay Stambh complex.

This complex is also home to numerous Langoor monkeys. If you’re ever bored, just sit down and observe these ultra happy and inquisitive creatures jump around. Keep a close watch on your belongings though!

Chittaurgarh Fort.

Sundown with the Langoor monkeys.

Also, this is a brilliant place to watch the sun go down, especially after a hard day’s tourism.

Day two:

My second day in Chittaurgarh was reserved for riding about inside the fort in the day and the sound and light show in the evening. Early morning went by as I sipped my tea and felt the fresh morning air of this town. Two nights that I had spent here hadn’t revealed much about the town itself.

To me, it felt like all the sacrifice and bloodshed over those olden ages still had some sort of bearing on this place. Chittaurgarh, seemed to me like a stoic town, not reacting to my arrival in any noticeable way. I was here, studying the history as deeply as I could but there was no telling if I was actually learning anything about the place in reality.

This was also a time when I became increasingly introspective. At this point, I had spent more than three weeks on the road. A lot had had happened in my head, with it going through these myriad experiences, thumping across this sandy state. There was no homesickness, there was no longing to get back home. Even though my bike wasn’t in all that great a nick, I felt like I could survive like this for as long as I wanted. I had completely become used to being alone. Meeting and interacting only with strangers.

ROOH - E - RAJASTHAN

The making of a true traveller.

It is at times like these that I realize I’m on the right path. I know I’m made for the road, a traveller through and through. Also, someone who would be incomplete without his camera and motorcycle. So many realizations, so little time.

The mango tree above me moved with the breeze, letting a ray of early sunshine dart into my half open eyes. As if to shake me out of my trance of thoughts, the sun’s rays did well to wake me up. This was my second and last day in Chittaurgarh, most had to be made of it. So I geared up and made my way towards the fort. I entered using the same winding road which passes through the gates and reached the top quick.

Chittaurgarh.

A view of the city from the fort’s walls.

I still hadn’t been able to properly capture the entire length of the fort from afar. Slowly I was giving up on the idea altogether. For some reason I felt I wouldn’t be able to do justice to the real majesty of this monument. I carried on, the 13 square kilometers that the Chittaurgarh Fort is spread out over, offer a lot of space for someone who just wants to experience peace. Birds will chirp, the sun will rise, the temperature will go up and the occasional cow will moo, that’s about it. There is also an abundance of greenery up here and all over the fort, a nice contrast to the image of Rajasthan I should say.

Chittaurgarh Fort.

Oh, it’s green.

The people of Chittaurgarh too had been nice to me. I was welcomed well by my RTDC caretakers and even in the town while asking directions and sipping on roadside chai, people had been polite. It had become a characteristic of the people of Rajasthan, there had not been one incident as yet on this entire trip where I’d felt I was being taken for a ride, so to speak. The cities and roads of Rajasthan had become my home and I was happy.

Chittaurgarh Chai.

Chai on a Chittaur street.

Even on this day as I rode my motorcycle nonchalantly around the fort premises, I felt like I was a part of this place. An unnoticeable speck in the span of the history of this fort. Still, this place grounded me like no other I’ve ever been to. I could relate to the tales of valour, heroism and sacrifice here. The vast plains that stretched out behind the fort looked to me like chalk slates, where each ruler came and wrote his own piece over the previous one’s.

Chalk slate of Chittaur.

Chalk slate of Chittaur.

It was strangely beautiful, the way even the air here felt like it had a touch of the past.

Coming back to being the tourist, I had bought my ticket for the sound and light show this evening. I already knew most of what there is to know about Chittaurgarh but I felt the sound and light compilation would be a good opportunity to learn more as well as a relaxing way to spend my last evening.

Here, at Chittaurgarh, the sound and light show is managed and run by RTDC itself. Don’t be surprised if you find the goings on a little laid back. They will wait till there are at least 25 people in the stands to start the show. I find this small town bending of the rules pretty amusing, really.

Chittaurgarh Fort.

Light, sound and action!

The hour long show was just perfect. All the history I had learnt about Chittaur in the past two days got woven into a fine thread. The timelines became clearer in my head. And once again, the heroism of this quaint land touched me. It’s strange that sometimes I feel I should have been born in those years to experience the history first hand. Who knows, maybe I was. I’d miss my motorcycle though!

By far the most compelling part of my time in Chittaur was when I asked the sound and light show operator a simple question. My question to him was ‘You watch this show everyday of your life, do you still like it?’ A Rajput himself, he came back with a simple reply. He said ‘Sir, I’m a Rajput. Each day while I watch this show from behind, a tear escapes my eyes and my chest fills with pride. Every time, everyday.’

And you know what, I felt what he said to me word for word. Somehow I could relate to him.

The show got over and soon the same would happen to my time in Chittaurgarh. I promised myself I would come back. For now though, Udaipur was my next port of call. A very short 115 kilometer ride was ahead of me.

Early next morning, as usual, I geared up and said my goodbyes to the RTDC friends I had made here and left. These short two days had been good. The true embrace of Rajasthan had started to take hold over me. After spending more than three weeks on the road in this state, I had found my comfort zone. I was excited thinking about what Udaipur held in store for me.

The motorcycle was straining to go beyond 100 km/h on the 100 kilometer long National Highway 76 to Udaipur but I was determined to push her. I kept the throttle jammed open all through, stopping only twice, once for a quick breakfast and the second to take a leak on the side of the road like a traditional Indian traveller. The bike was hanging in there, for the first time since Jodhpur, I felt she could pull through for the remainder of the trip. I was still keeping my fingers crossed though. I had started respecting my motorcycle’s resolve too, she deserved it.

TO UDAIPUR!To Udaipur!

Gaining on Udaipur!

This short 3 hour ride was filled mostly with me thinking about what Udaipur was going to be like. Udaipur is known for its luxury and well, I had been saving up all along. I couldn’t wait to get there!

For more pictures from Chittaur, Click here.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

In this article:

Number of nights: Chittaurgarh – 3.

Distance travelled: Jaipur – Chittaurgarh = 320 kms.

Motorcycle condition: Misfires, slight over heating, engine noise (crank issues). She’s got guts carrying on like this! Salute!

Next destination: Udaipur, Rajasthan. (Click here to read)


Rajasthan – The Capital City.

Part 5 of Rooh – E – Rajasthan.

To read part 4 – Click here.

To read part 3 – Click here.

To read part 2 – Click here.

To read part 1 – Click here.

Jaipur

Aamer

The capital of Rajasthan.

Entering the capital of Rajasthan was like reaching any other metropolitan city. Dug up roads, maddening rush, pollution and a whiff of what us city dwellers call life. The Marauder was clearly straining to keep up with my pace as with every twist of the throttle, she told me we needed to stop and get her checked out properly. From what I’ve noticed, it’s not just us humans who like the wide open road. Even our machines love the feeling of the wind tearing around them. The term ‘air cooled’ takes on a whole new meaning if you look at it this way. My entry into Jaipur was a little different from all the other cities I had been to.

Dusk was upon Jaipur as I rode onto its jam packed, grid locked and dug up streets. Jaipur is a huge city. It took me a whole hour to find my RTDC (Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation) Jaipur abode, what with the various one-ways and blocked streets. That extra hour of snails pace riding had managed to break the ice between the city and I. As the sun said goodbye, I had pretty much matched the pace of Jaipur in my mind. One more thing, there was nothing here that would remind you of the desert. A two hour drive away from India’s capital city Delhi, here in Jaipur – there was no desert.

Jaipur City.

Just another metro.

The first night in Jaipur was one of those where you can’t stop thinking and sometimes forget to blink, looking up at the ceiling. Usually when too many thoughts cloud the mind, I head out on to the road with my motorcycle but here on this mammoth ride, I didn’t know what to do. Again, motivation is the key but I felt like all my trump cards had run out. Typical tourism was just not cutting it. Sleep came soon enough.

Day 1:

The sun was up as my eyes opened late. A pounding headache was what kept me in bed this long. I realised, it was best I take an easy day and not try anything too dramatic. The nearest coffee shop was a stone’s throw away, not that I mind the street side chai but I wanted something that reminded me of what I’m used to back home. A cappuccino in a white mug with some shabby latte’ art seemed like just the perfect fix. Like a proper city boy I pulled out my laptop and connected to the internet whilst sitting on the pseudo leather couch. Emails and notifications are what we all are used to checking but I also read up a little about Jaipur. I wondered why I wasn’t excited to check out this new city this time round, was I losing my touch? Maybe.

Relax!

Coffee.

The state of one’s mind during travel is what defines the mood of the journey, I feel. If all is going well, even the simplest things can be a lot of fun. My motorcycle’s dwindling health was the biggest bother I had and it was eating my enthusiasm towards Jaipur. The only way I saw around it was to get her a good service here. The next day we set out in search of the elusive ‘Bullet mechanic’.

Day 2:

After some riding around, I found the Royal Enfield showroom. The people here were kind enough to escort me to their service station. As soon as I saw the red on grey sign board of the Royal Enfield service station, the persistent ‘sinking feeling’ in my stomach vanished. I was now sure that the problems the Marauder was facing would now be taken care of. Little did I know, that the service manager here would also tell me that nothing was wrong with my motorcycle. Frankly, the guy was just not interested in his job. There could be a million things I might be wrong about but I always know when my motorcycle is not doing well. They refused to acknowledge that there was a knock in the engine.

The Jaipur Shouwroom.

Royal Enfield at Jaipur.

Sadly, Jaipur too turned out to be a dud, as far as the bike was concerned. That afternoon after I had my lunch, I rode my bike to the nearest fuel station, tanked her up, parked her at the RTDC parking lot and sat down on the ground next to her.

There was a slight warm breeze ruffling the leaves of the mango tree above us and the sun shone through intermittently. The warmth of the motorcycle’s engine hit me with every current of air, the smell of oil had an eerie tang to it. Maybe it was just me I thought, maybe I was being too paranoid. I talked to my motorcycle, sitting there I told her that we had crossed the half way mark on our journey. Another 2000 odd kilometres stood between us and the completion of Rooh – e – Rajasthan.

I asked her to stand by my side the rest of the way and that we would not be able to get her rectified here. The last thing I wanted was to have some guy uninterested in his job trying to tinker with the engine. Yet again it was decided, I would ride like I would have normally and it was up to her to pull through for the entire journey. If she decided to give up on me while we were on our way, I would do what was required to get her back home safe on a truck. Until then, the mission was more important than the means.

Slowly the sun came down as the hour hand struck 5pm. That, for me is ‘get ready for sunset’ time! I sped down the road that leads to Jal Mahal, a palatial building which springs out of the middle of Maan Sagar Lake here in Jaipur. Parking for two wheelers here is relatively easy to find. There is a walkway on one side of the lake made for people with an interest for viewing the unique palace. Unfortunately, entry to the palace was closed around the time I reached but I had seen so many palaces already, I didn’t mind.

Jal Mahal.

Jal Mahal during sunset.

I wanted to shoot some time-lapse footage of the lake with the suns light playing around the frame. I found myself a spot and set up. Both cameras clicking away, I was the centre of attention for more than a few passers-by. I was asked random questions by random tourists and locals alike, all in good vain of course. The short and tight conversations kept me busy and alert. Truth be told, one can never let ones guard down when travelling alone. Plus with all my equipment out and in plain sight, I was on my toes throughout.

Jal Mahal by night.

Jal Mahal by night.

While shooting, I got a call from an old classmate who was now in Jaipur. He had seen my posts on Facebook. He asked me where I was and told me he would be there shortly. In the 30 odd minutes it took him to reach me, I suddenly went into flashback mode. Of the times that we were in school and the ones when all us kids parted ways after finishing school at Hyderabad.

Sachin Kumar, he was now a final year engineering student. He arrived, we met after about five years! We had so much to talk about that there was not a second of silence. The evening was just beginning to shape up as it became dark. Adventurous as usual, we decided that we’d ride to the top of Nahargarh Fort, at night. There we stories that this road wasn’t too good, the place was very secluded and that it was advisable to head to the place in the morning. Sachin told me that the view from the top was worth the risk. We decided to go.

As soon as I packed my gear, we topped up our tummies with some roadside grub and head to the fort. About 10 kilometres away stood the top of the Nahargarh Fort. The approach road winds through a bush and the road is not particularly smooth but in the dark with our headlights flaring, we made our way and reached the top. From here, the view of Jaipur is panoramic. The evening lights from houses and shops glimmer like a plate of sweets covered with golden foil. Oh boy was the risk worth it! Beautiful would be an understatement.

Jaipur by night.

Night over Jaipur.

We spent well over an hour up there on the fort wall, looking at and shooting what was my first night panorama of the whole trip. This fort wall is quite the night spot. Youngsters come here often just to hang out and ‘chill’.

Atop Nahargarh.

Clear skies and the Nahargarh Fort.

The night sky was clear and we were ready for some more action. From the top of the Nahargarh fort, there is a narrow winding road which leads down directly into the city. Interestingly, it is thought of as a dangerous and treacherous one as many people have lost their limbs trying to ride it. The same morning, I was told by local not to, under any circumstances, venture on to that bit of tarmac. Alas! Who could resist?

We started our motorcycles and head off towards the so called dangerous hill road. Bumpy it was but not really dangerous if you ask me. Only if you lost control of your vehicle would it be a threat and just like that we landed right in the middle of old Jaipur. Even Sachin didn’t quite know his way out of this mangled hodge podge of streets!

The rush of adrenalin from the ride was still on. We zoomed through the narrow alleyways and surely after a while of riding, the broad main roads of Jaipur revealed themselves to us. It was time for food. Both of us being hard core non-vegetarians, we went to a shanty restaurant which was anything but hygienic. Yet, the best food is often found where one dares to go. Fried chicken which could take you straight to an Angio and gravies which looked more like islands in a sea of red translucent oil were served to us. It was tasty and that’s all that mattered then. We both ate our hearts out!

Resto!Food!Bill!

Dinner time!

After dinner, another day had come to an end. My buddy had to head back as he had classes the next day and I had to get ready for Jaipur. We said our goodbyes with a renewed promise to meet again.

Till we meet again!

Till we meet again!

Then, I set about getting my gear ready for the next day. Finally, I felt motivated enough to take on Jaipur as a tourist. The Hawa Mahal, Aamer Fort, Jantar Mantar and even the Nahargarh Fort were all on my list. There was a lot to cover and I couldn’t wait to get started.

Hawa Mahal & the true Jaipur.

Hawa Mahal.

As I learnt, it takes a while to get in touch with the real vibe of this city. One has to immerse the self in the history here. No doubt the city and its big buildings are good but the real Jaipur is under the surface, off the streets and beyond the present – the true Jaipur. Truth is that Jaipur didn’t always exist. It is a city made by the then Maharajah Sawai Jai Singh the second about 3 centuries ago. During that period, the actual city amongst these hills was Amber or Aamer as it is now known. Jaipur was founded by the Maharajah owing to the increasing population of Amber. It is a remarkably planned city and you’ll notice that if you look at it from a distance. Big roads and channelled buildings, more or less.

Day 3:

There is usually only one image which comes to mind when you talk about the Hawa Mahal and it is this:

Jaipur traffic and the Hawa Mahal.

Embrace the cliche’.

But there is a lot more to this monument than what meets the eye. Most people including the locals here will tell you that if you’ve seen the front facade of the Hawa Mahal, then you’ve seen enough but that’s far from the truth. Built by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh, the Hawa Mahal’s main exterior’s purpose was to enable the royal women of the kingdom to get a look at the world out side. Apart from that, the architecture and intricate latticework here is worth commending. When here, one can easily imagine how the ladies in their colourful attires must have looked on through these very jharokhas (small windows). That was a time when the system of ‘purdah’ (veil) was widely practiced among the women of India. Every palace you visit in Rajasthan will bear testament to the purdah system as there will probably be a room where the ‘palkis’ or royal carriages will be displayed. The palkis were carriages designed for the royal women to move around in, without being seen by regular folk.

Hawa Mahal.

A typical jharokha.

One enters the Hawa Mahal from the rear. A nominal fee is charged to tourists for touring the Mahal. It’s worth taking a guide along if you want to delve deeper into the beginnings of this monument and its architecture. Arches, arches and more arches, it’s like they are the sentinels of this unique monument.

Hawa Mahal.

The Hawa Mahal interiors.

Early morning is the time to visit the Hawa Mahal. The Sun’s position and its rays work wonders with the light here. It’s refreshing, almost like having a bath with cold water in the desert heat.

Hawa Mahal.

What you don’t see.

From the top, one can see most of Jaipur. Even the forts of Nahargarh and Aamer are visible from this unorthodox vantage point. You can also see the big sun dial at Jantar Mantar from here. What a way to start my morning!

Next up, the Jantar Mantar.

Jantar Mantar.

The greatest time teller of them all.

I could go all geek on you and tell you what each instrument here is about but I wont. A one of a kind collection of architectural astronomical instruments built by the Maharajah Jai Singh, it is best if one finds out on ones own. Zodiacs to sun dials, shadow clocks to other instruments which interpret the stars, each and every instrument here could interest you. Here are some photographs to show you what the Jantar Mantar complex is all about. Enjoy.

Jantar Mantar.Jantar Mantar.

The Jantar Mantar complex.

Jantar Mantar.Jantar Mantar.Jantar Mantar.

City Palace, Jaipur.

City Palace, Jaipur.

Right opposite the Jantar Matar stands the City Palace. Home to the current royal family of Jaipur, one shouldn’t miss this place of tourist interest. Smack dab in the center of Jaipur city, the City Palace induces are calming aura of space and luxury. No wonder then that it is still, in a large part, a royal residence.

City Palace, Jaipur.

Don’t miss the City Palace!

A mix of Indian, Mughal and European architecture thanks to its architects – a Bengali gentleman, an Englishman and Maharajah Sawai Jai Singh the second himself, the City Palace houses all the usual requisites for a royal palace.

City Palace, Jaipur.

The architecture, a mix of European, Indian and Mughal influences.

Walking through the city palace interiors one can not only appreciate the architecture and pains taking mosaic work but also take a moment to relax and hang around, away from the loud noises of the city.

City Palace, Jaipur.

Detailed mosaic work at one of the doors.

Lunch was a priority as I exited The City Palace. I shot a little in and around the streets of the city till the light became too harsh and then headed back to the hotel.

Charmers for a dollar.Jaipur City.

Street side Jaipur.

After this days shooting, I was faced with a small problem. All the space I had to store my RAW footage was almost over. Also I had just one back-up of all the data. Now, being the prudent photographer, I had prepared for this eventuality in my mind. At the rate I was shooting all over Rajasthan, I was lucky I survived this long. In the evening I bought another big hard drive and got about transferring all the data and sorting out everything. This is the slowest, most time consuming and not to mention important part of a photographers’ trip. A big day was ahead of me. The massive Aamer Fort was on my agenda for the next day. I readied myself.

Day 4:

The Aamer Fort.

I sprang out of bed in the morning, enjoyed my tea and packed up. It was time go to shoot the Aamer Fort and it’s story. The ride to the fort was probably one of the most beautiful 10 kilometer ride/drive one can take in Jaipur, within the city. I remember saying that the Mehrangarh Fort at Jodhpur is imposing, well, the Aamer is way beyond that. From the road, as you drive towards the massive hilltop structure, the beauty and majesty of the surrounding hills and lake are refreshing. Even the road seems to have been built in a way that accentuates the ‘look’ of the Aamer or Amber Fort.

The Aamer Fort.

The Aamer Fort in the distance.

The lake, which is bang in front of the fort’s walls, is called the Maota Lake. This serving of fresh water at the forefront of the fort does well to prepare your brain for the next few hours of amazement and onslaught of beautiful history.

The Aamer Fort.

Lake Maota and the serenity of Aamer.

Ahead of the ‘Dil Araam Bagh’ or Heart relaxing garden, the massive ramparts serve as walkways and were used by royals on their elephants to climb up and in to the fort premises. The elephants are still there but the royalty has been replaced by tourists. A fee of INR 900 will get you to the top whilst you enjoy an elephant ride. Mind you, the line up for this is huge. I chose to climb up on foot, with a guide.

The Aamer Fort.

A typical day at Dil Araam Bagh, Aamer.

My guide, a middle aged gentleman from Jaipur, seemed skeptical of my intentions at first. He had never seen or heard of anyone like me. When I told him why I was clicking pictures, he looked at me with a puzzled gaze, as if trying to justify in his mind that I was not a fool on a wild goose chase. More than telling me about Aamer, he wanted to know about my history and future. Amusing to say the least, every once in a while he would offer to hold my heavy camera bag so that I could get a better shot. Rarely though will you find such hospitality anywhere in the world. Rajasthani men and women though, to me, seemed like the kindest and simplest amongst all.

It was a mighty climb I must confess, plus we had no choice but to give way to the tall elephants ferrying tourists to and fro. Finally though I entered the Aamer Fort’s inner premises. Straight away the splendour of the entrance gate left me dumbfounded. What a sight!

The Aamer Fort.

Massive entrances to every wing of the fort.

The several gates, known as ‘pol’ in Hindi, served as Gothic reminders of the era gone by. Those monolithic arches would pull the air out of every breath. Ganesh Pol, Suraj Pol, Hathi Pol etc, each had a characteristic defining feature over and above the awe inducing sight. The intricate mosaic work is another fabulous example of the craftsmanship of the day.

The Aamer Fort.

‘Suraj Pol’ or the Gateway of the Sun.

The view from different levels of the fort is panoramic and during early mornings and evenings, beautiful to say the least. If one peeks out of the windows, one can see the Saffron Garden or ‘Kesar Kyari’ right in front. Also in the view would be the massive fort walls which extend all the way to the top of the hills in the distance. Even after seeing quite a few forts in Rajasthan itself, I couldn’t help but gawk!

The Aamer Fort.

A view of the front with the Kesar Kyari in the midst.

Next come the courtyards of Aamer. I need only utter three words – peace, serenity and awe. At the risk of sounding as if I got carried away, I must confess, the Aamer Fort was turning out to be my favourite one yet. The gardens inside the fort, near the Sheesh Mahal only accentuate the unique feeling.

The Aamer Fort.

A courtyard of Aamer.

One interesting fact that not many will know is that there is a tunnel between the Aamer Fort and the Nahargarh Fort. Seemingly for the king and family to escape in case the situation ever demanded. To this day, they say, that the passage is functional. Only the Maharajah would know for sure!

The Aamer Fort.

The mystery passage.

Alright, the fort is all well and good but if you really want to know and experience the Aamer in a special way, try this out. Don’t go and tour the fort. First, sit through the Sound and Light show here, it is held at the kesar kyari enclosure.

The Aamer Fort.

Ready for the show?

An hour long show of dancing lights depicting the history of this fort and its rulers. It is by far one of the most interesting sound and light shows you’ll ever see in Rajasthan. Aamer has not only been preserved well as a fort but the sound and light show is the perfect cherry to go on the top of this historical cake.

The Aamer Fort.

The Aamer Fort, in the colours of the Kingdom’s flag.

If you do happen to take my word and see the sound and light show before the fort tour, you will get a better understanding of the happenings of yore. The time-lines will be clear in your head when your guide narrates the story. Oh and do take a guide, not the audio one but the human kind. The primary reason being, the human guide will take you places the audio guide won’t. Just behind the Aamer Fort, one can see the Aamer village, the Aamer hills and some temples – one of which is worth devoting some time to. I must say it, this was the most beautiful Durga Devi Temple I had ever seen in my life.

Durga Devi Temple.

The imposing temple.

Very close to the temple is a small shop which sells clothes and accessories made by local cottage industries. Hosiery students have gotten together and put up a small shop where they sell their products. Their stuff is good. Women especially, will love this tiny little outlet!

Jaipur hoisery.

Jaipur produce!

Day 5:

If at heart you’re a small boy who likes big toys, then don’t mist out on the Jaigadh Fort. They house the world’s biggest military cannon here. Known as the ‘Jaivana’, this cannon was like a weapon of mass destruction in its hay day – an apt deterrent. It weighs 50 tonnes and it’s barrel is 20 feet long – enough said.

Jaivana.Jaivana.

The world’s biggest cannon.

Food? The Nahargarh Fort canteen serves the absolute best ‘Laal Maans’ or red meat (a Rajasthani speciality) in town. Warning: It is spicy like it’s no ones business but brilliant for the Indian palette.

Laal Maans.

‘Laal Maans’.

Day five was also my last day in Jaipur. Spending the afternoon and evening getting ready for the upcoming ride, yet again I wondered whether my hurting motorcycle would get me there. I believed that she could and with that, sleep came.

I left Jaipur early next morning. This leg of my motorcycle journey was symbolic of my turning back. Technically, I was now heading towards home. Only two cities stood between me and the completion of Rooh – E – Rajasthan. Even as I rode on the highway (NH8) my mind was slowly drifting into an introspective mode.

Yes, every motorcycle trip has a profound effect on ones personality and mind. You learn, you forget, you survive and you enjoy. I took many risks taking on this mammoth adventure – family, money, my own security and a whole lot more but as of now, things were looking up. An aura of positivity was building and my god does it bring a smile to your face when you’re near personal success.

Chittaurgarh Fort.

Towards Chittaur!

Chittaurgarh, a small town just off the National Highway 8 between Jaipur and Udaipur was my next destination. Not many people even choose to visit this quaint town in Rajasthan. Yet it is one of the most significant places in Rajasthan’s vivid history. On my way, I had the good fortune of stopping at a small roadside pushcart, stood beside a railway crossing, to me it seemed like the perfect last stop before hauling to Chittaurgarh. I had the best chai of any road trip ever here! The best part was that all I remember of the place is the railway crossing and the pushcart. Today, I have no idea where this cart was and whether I would ever be able to find it, if I tried.

Roadside chai time!

Highway chai!

The bike did well to get me to Chaittaur. Even with the slowly but still growing engine issues, she was turning out to be a tough brute. This bit of my ride was very smooth as this stretch of the National Highway 8 leaves no stone unturned when it comes to quality tarmac. Soon, I would lay anchor in a sea of history, Chittaurgarh.

For more pictures from Jaipur, Click here.

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In this article:

Number of nights: Jaipur – 6.

Distance travelled: Ajmer – Jaipur = 120 kms.

Motorcycle condition: Occasional misfires, slight over heating, engine noise (crank issues). She’s just being a Bullet.

Next destination: Chittaurgarh, Rajasthan. (Click here to read)


In the hills of Rajasthan.

Part 4 of Rooh – E – Rajasthan.

To read part 3 – Click here.

To read part 2 – Click here.

To read part 1 – Click here.

Ajmer

BALLOONING OVER PUSHKAR

Too many thoughts spoil the broth.

My arrival at Ajmer was a little unsettling. The approach road towards Ajmer once one turns off the highway was really not a road. It was a proper sand trail where cars and trucks crawling at a snail’s pace were kicking up walls of dust. And I thought I had left the sand behind! Controlling the motorcycle on this track, where the sand was half a foot deep and with everyone on the trail looking at me was not easy. I had no choice but to ride behind these vehicles and breathe occasionally. If I said it was hot that morning, I’d be lying, it was scorching!

Ridin' through the Aravallis

Ridin’ to the Aravallis!

I had more than a few preconceived notions about Ajmer. I had heard a lot about this city. Everyone told me not to miss the Dargah Sharif and the Annasagar Lake. Also, the holy town of Pushkar was just a breath away. Even the Pushkar fair was well under way as I reached Ajmer. Ajmer was also my mother’s birthplace. I was hoping this city would stimulate and motivate me after my time in Jodhpur.

In Ajmer, I was staying with relatives. People who I knew, people who I liked. People, who liked me. These were people who appreciated what I was doing and even commended me on my resolve to go it alone. Reassuring to say the least, this praise coming from the people who I know and now thank.

The city of Ajmer lies off the National Highway 8, some 140 kilometers before Jaipur, one of the longest and smoothest stretches of road India and Rajasthan have to offer. I reached Ajmer fairly early; the desert heat here was more intense compared to any other city or town I had been to yet. At 11 in the morning, to my central Indian soul, it felt like it was afternoon in peak summer. All my water was over as I entered the city. I reached the city center and restocked when my uncle came to pick me up, he showed me the way to their home which would be my base for the next few days.

After my dismount from the bike, a refreshing bath and a nap later, I head out onto the streets of this of this city, which is really a town if you know what I mean. The roads here are a mix of broad and narrow, Ajmer was designed to fit the description of a ‘sleepy’ town. Near the railway station, it’s a snail’s rally at any time of the day. Head to the lake though and it’s mostly a breeze driving or riding on the road alongside the famous Annasagar lake.

When it comes to food, there is really only one place you need to head to. Forget about non-vegetarian grub, just head to the ‘Gol Piyau’ and treat yourself to some amazing north Indian chaat. ‘Chaat’ is the Indian answer to all your non meal time cravings. One plate of aaloo tikki (a kind of potato cutlet) is enough to keep you going for a while. Even the samosa chaat which they serve with a mixture of spices and a curry called ‘kadhi’ is divine. Mind you, all this only if you can battle the crowd and get to the counter!

Gol Piyau.Gol Piyau.

Grub and grubbers at the Gol Piyau, Ajmer.

Here in Ajmer, I could not stop myself from trying out the ‘pani puri’ on a road side pushcart. It is a quintessentially Indian personality trait!

These little pockets of punch are really what the doctor ordered, if you’re the kind who likes to take a little risk with your tummy. Spicy, tangy and wholesome pockets of fried pastry, stuffed with savoury potato mash and spiced water. If the spice is too much for your palate, ask for the sweet version, close your eyes and chomp. It is brilliant, take my word for it.

I spent my evening chit-chatting with relatives, basically relaxing and getting in early. I was still confused, how I should go about exploring the two cities of Ajmer and Pushkar was a blur even now.

Day two in Ajmer.

The holy town of Pushkar was just 12 kilometres away from down town Ajmer. The Pushkar fair had started just a couple of days before my arrival and there was no way I was going to miss it.

On this day, I woke up to the clicks of my cameras taking a time-lapse of the sunrise over the Aravalli ranges. Early mornings in Ajmer are chilly to say the least, quiet and peaceful too. During the night, amidst falling in and out of sleep, I had decided that I will head to Pushkar and take a look around. Everyone raves about this place for abundant reasons and hence my curiosity coupled with excitement got the better of me.

Ajmer morning.

Ajmer morning.

The motorcycle ride from Ajmer to Pushkar was an interesting one. It was only 12 kilometers but even in that less a distance one gets the feeling of change. The feeling of being in a city changes to make you feel like you’re in a holy town. And you are! I reached Pushkar late in the morning and spent the entire day just gauging the fair or ‘mela’ as it is known in Hindi. Getting a feel for Pushkar turned out to be easier than expected. The holy town of Pushkar wasn’t all religion religion religion, thankfully. Here and now, during the Pushkar Mela there was a lot more going on.

Heading to Pushkar!

Let’s go see Pushkar!

In the 8 hours I spent in Pushkar on this day, I could understand two things. The odours here were the real story tellers and that this place was less a cattle fair, more a lens-men (and women) extravaganza. Let’s start with the former.

Pushkar

Pushkar Fair.

Not your ordinary fare.

Day 1, Pushkar:

No matter where you hail from, you will find your palate struggling to keep up with the taste of the air here. From temple smells to the mid day warm air at the stadium, you’re in for an experience of sorts. A background of cow/camel/horse dung, a spattering of diesel fumes, some fruits and chai and a garnish of sand makes up the air here. Don’t be surprised if you can smell someone smoking weed here. Well, if you’re surprised, you won’t know its weed. Pushkar is not for the faint hearted traveller.

Pushkar Fair.

Stadium sands.

The stadium is where the action is, mostly. Apart from the perpetual cattle fair, loitering camels, pushcarts, chaiwallahs and the occasional hot air balloon, this place is also a playground for women and men with big lenses. Especially inside the stadium, one can feel the photography. Hundreds of people can be seen attacking subjects in aggressive stances as if they were actually holding them to ransom. Or maybe it’s the other way round, the moment you click a holy man’s photo, don’t be surprised if he asks you for some money. Though the businessman in me did think, if someone started a camera equipment store here in Pushkar, they’d mint money!

Pushkar Fair.

Mine is bigger!

If you’re hungry in Pushkar, there are many options, sort of. Let me explain. There are umpteen stalls selling freshly fried samosas and kachauris all through the day. There are also a number of juice stalls and food huts et al. So, where’s the problem? Hygiene – In this holy town, that’s your problem. When I first arrived and finished my recce, I deduced, even my hardened stomach may not be able to take the sheer dust content in that food. The best thing to do when in doubt about food is to eat fruit. Bananas are a saviour in most situations and so I picked up a sixpack and gorged away from hungerville.

Pushkar vibe

Street grub

To food or not to?

Coming to Pushkar and going back to Ajmer every night wasn’t going to make sense. So, I booked my RTDC hotel room here for the next night and head back to Ajmer. That evening I was in the mood to indulge myself and thought of that as the right opportunity to check out the night life of the city. Well guess what, there isn’t one! After 10 pm, Ajmer seems like it’s a town under curfew. In fact, I was lucky I even got food at that hour! Phew!

Day 2 Pushkar:

On this morning, I woke up before dawn and packed up my stuff. No matter how many times you have done it, getting out of bed that early is always a fight against the urge to go back to sleep. All loaded up, I left from Ajmer at 5am and reached Pushkar at 5:15. Yet again, the same 12 kilometer ride had a profound effect. The chilled morning wind worked well to refresh my head and my spirit. The temperature was really low at that time of the morning which brought home another realisation. The motorcycle. The cold start meant she was sounding even more roughed out than what she actually was. As we climbed down the hill on the way to Pushkar though, her beat became smooth. The calm and quiet of this early morning was only dotted with the sweet sound of my Enfield’s exhaust note.

It was apparent that people here were early risers….or really late sleepers. The roadside stalls had already started making the first of many rounds of tea for the day. Even the cows were being milked by the side of the road and the holy men were making their way to the lake for their morning dip. Dawn had cast itself over Pushkar. The faint blue of the early morning sky melted into the dark of Pushkar streets, the small light bulbs of stalls and shops did their best to punctuate the serenity with their colours, like a small company of soldiers trying to fight the dark till reinforcements arrived in the form of the sun’s light.

Pushkar Fair.

Good Morning Pushkar.

The ‘aarti’ or prayer of the morning had begun echoing all over. The kirtan at the Gurudwara could also be heard now. Even the mosque had begun its first reading for the day. I reached the RTDC hotel here and dumped my stuff, took my camera gear and head out. Now, the real reason for me to come this early to Pushkar was the hot air balloon show. Yes. Big balloons filled with hot air would be flying all over this town and it’s surrounding hills and I was not going to miss it, not for the world! I am still a child when it comes to such things.

Pushkar Fair.

View from the bedroom!

At around 6am the hot air balloons lined the sand at the stadium and slowly got ready for take-off. This was the first time I observed the goings on behind each balloon launch. Quite interesting for a techno – motorhead like me. The sounds of huge fans and the intermittent blows of hot flames into the balloons were hard to miss. Plus the conversations with balloon pilots made my being here even more interesting. Sadly, I could not afford to fly aboard one of these friendly beasts but still, I spent close to two hours just recording and photographing the goings on behind ballooning.

Pushkar Fair.Pushkar Fair.

Behind Ballooning.

These balloons are mostly operated by German and British companies who are specially invited to perform here. A joyride on one of these will set you back about 10 grand Indian. One by one the colourful balloons stood up and took to the sky as others took their place on the stadium sands. It is a sight to behold I must confess. The sun came up and the balloons flew away, the excitement of the morning was still in me. I sat down under some shade and checked out my shots whilst sipping on some chai.

Pushkar Fair.Pushkar Fair.Pushkar Fair.

Look up!

As the day moved on, hour after hour of games and processions took center stage. The wrestling and the Kabbaddi competitions are by far some of the most interesting games played here as teams are formed with locals and foreign nationals pitching themselves against each other. What really caught my attention here was the moustache competition. Oh yes, this is where Rajasthani men come into their own. If there is one thing you ask any Indian to visualize about Rajasthan, it will be their moustaches.

Pushkar Fair.Pushkar Fair.

Kabbaddi, action packed!

This time there were five participants in all but only two were true contenders. Both had a personality which was unmatchable! The contestants lined up as a huge crowd gathered to watch this unique competition. The gentleman who won had a moustache 10feet long from one end to the other! Whoa!

Pushkar Fair.Pushkar Fair.

A long moustache and a personality to match!

There was also a game called ‘Ghota Dhari’ being played here. Looked much like hockey being played in sand actually. Furthermore, another whacky and witty sport was the turban tying competition. Basically for foreigners who wanted to showcase their turban tying prowess.

Pushkar Fair.Pushkar Fair.

Ghota Dhari and tying the turban!

There is also a very popular temple here in Pushkar. Dedicated to Lord Bhrama, it is hailed to be the only one in the world. One can’t be too sure about that but this one is definitely the most popular Bhrama Temple in the world. There is an interesting story behind there being only one Bhrama temple in the world. Folklore says that Lord Bhrama’s wife saw Gayatri (a woman Bhrama married to complete a religious practice known as Yagna) sitting next to him in her place and cursed him. The curse entailed that no worship would be offered to him anywhere else in the world and hence the exclusivity of this Bhrama temple. Well that’s as far as the story goes in my opinion. The temple is said to be about two thousand years old and is run by Gurjar Sanyasis.

Pushkar Fair.

The Maha Aarti.

The streets of Pushkar during the fair are narrow. Lined by pushcarts or stalls selling a variety of things, during the day and the evening there is rarely any place to walk. It is advisable to find a safe parking spot for your vehicle and head out on foot. At any RTDC (Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation) tourist information kiosk here, you can ask for a pamphlet with the fair schedule. Once you have that, you will know when and where the interesting events are going to take place. I spent the time in between competitions and games strolling around the markets and checking out the animals here on sale. Because that’s what the Pushkar fair is really about. Cattle.

Pushkar markets

Street market, Pushkar.

A cattle auction – That is what the Pushkar fair originally started out as. This year, a horse was sold for 12 million INR. The scene is, various stud farms and camel breeders put up their tents and showcase their best specimens which are mostly for sale. Buyers horde the town during the first two days of the fair and pick up whatever animal they like. The animals, be it horses, camel or even goat and sheep then get taken for meat or for production of wool etc. Some horses even make it into races and camels of course, get down to doing what camels do in Rajasthan, ferry tourists around.

Pushkar Fair.

Pull!

The evenings here, if spent around the Pushkar lake are serene and calm. They say the Pushkar lake is a special one. Replenished only by rain water it is considered to be holy. It is a man made lake. It is also not very hygienic as it is not drained by any river, yet it is said that no one has ever fallen sick by taking a dip or using its water here. One doesn’t know how much truth there is to that lore though. Thanks to my RTDC abode, I had a panoramic view of the lake which served as a beautiful vantage point for the evening’s photography.

Pushkar Fair.

Panoramic night view of the Pushkar Lake.

I set up one camera for a time-lapse and with the other I stood on the two story high ledge over the lake taking pot shots at every subject I could find. As the sun went down, for the first time on this trip, I got some alone time to sit back and think about the past few days of travel. From my home in Maharashtra I had ridden my bike all across the western desert towns and crossed over to the eastern side of Rajasthan.

Pushkar Fair.

Pot shot 1.

Ajmer as a city hadn’t offered much but Pushkar I think had made up for it. I had only spent one proper day here but I guess to my mind, that was enough. My Pushkar tenure ended here. After this point, the more developed towns were on my checklist, Jaipur, Udaipur and Chittaurgarh. This was the half way mark. I gave myself a pat on the back.

Pushkar Fair.

Pot shot 2. The Gurudwara at Pushkar.

My mind was still racing about whether or not to give Ajmer one more day of my time.

The next morning I was back at Ajmer and wondering what to do. There were a couple of tourist interests here which were pending but for some reason, I wasn’t too interested or motivated if you will. I decided that I would head to Jaipur the same day, since it was just a 3 hour ride away. I freshened up, loaded up and said my goodbyes.

I started riding towards Jaipur at 3pm that very day, I couldn’t wait to see what was in store for me at the capital of Rajasthan!

Just an hour had passed since I left Ajmer and suddenly I knew why I had left so early. There are things that happen which make one realise how all that happens is interrelated. Speeding down the smooth highway, I saw a huge herd of camels walking on the side of the road. Right there was a photo opportunity which sparked my next move. Twisting the throttle further I gained more speed and then stopped a little ahead of the camel herd.

I whipped out the camera and excited as a puppy, got ready to try and shoot the photograph I had in mind. The camels came and walked past my motorcycle, I clicked each second that they were in the vicinity. As they walked away, I wondered whether my timing was good enough. Beads of sweat dripped down my face as I frantically got back to my bike under the warm afternoon sun. I stuffed the camera inside and started the bike again.

The shot.The shot.The shot.

The shot.The shot.

Look what I got!

I was to have lunch on my way. That was the perfect idea! One thing us Indians love about our country is the highway ‘Dhabas’ or rustic eateries. The highway to Jaipur is a six lane road and is trouble free for the most part. Half way to Jaipur came a place called Dudu, a small town on the side of the highway. It was about 4:30 in the evening and the sun had turned golden, it was time to stop for lunch. Also, I could not wait to sit down calmly and check out my recent photographic endeavor. I ordered my grub and slowly went about checking the shots I had taken.

Sure enough, I had got my shot! That perfect shot with the camels surrounding my motorcycle was now mine. This photograph characterised my ride through Rajasthan the best. The road, the ride and Rajasthan, all in one photograph. Perfect. I would never have got this shot if I had stayed back at Ajmer.

The final shot!

The final shot.

Back to the food, two of the most spicy aaloo ka paranthas was what I ordered. So spicy were they that by the end of eating them I was sweating profusely. To my surprise, the spice not only cleared my palate of any culinary response but also flushed my head of the thoughts that had bundled up during my time in Ajmer. Sometimes I think my head is like a motorcycle’s air filter, one has to keep ‘servicing’ it for the performance to be good.

Pushkar Fair.

Jaipur it is!

The ride to Jaipur was smooth barring the knock knock games my bike and I were playing along the way. The soft evening sunlight was the perfect riding companion. Even my motorcycle took its state in its stride and soldiered on. It wasn’t like I was being soft on her either, on empty straights I’d often max out the throttle and she would respond well enough. This stretch was quick to end, I reached Jaipur with another hour of riding under my belt.

For more pictures from Pushkar, Click here.

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In this article:

Number of nights: Ajmer – 2, Pushkar – 1. Total = 3.

Distance travelled: Jodhpur – Ajmer = 200 kms. Ajmer – Pushkar = 12 kms. Total = 212 kms.

Motorcycle condition: Occasional misfires, breakdown imminent (crank issues) though she’s still hanging in there.

Next destination: Jaipur, Rajasthan. (Click here to read)