Tag Archives: Port Blair

Netaji Trail: The Bose particle

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On the 120th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY undertake a transcontinental journey in the footsteps of one of India’s most daring freedom fighters

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He travelled from Calcutta to Peshawar as an insurance agent called Mohammed Ziauddin. As Khan Mohammed Ziauddin Khan, a mute tribal Pathan, he travelled on foot and by mule to Kabul. In the guise of a radio telegraphist and an Italian count Orlando Mazzotta, he reached Germany, met Hitler and eventually took a submarine halfway around the world to Japan to raise an army in the hope of liberating India from the yoke of British rule. There are many heroes who fought for India’s independence, but few as enigmatic as Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. We retrace his incredible journey from Kolkata to Kabul, Berlin to Burma and across the Far East – Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, Taiwan and North East India to the Andaman & Nicobar Islands…

As a young radical returning from Cambridge to Calcutta, Bose quit the Indian Civil Service in 1921 and rose to the post of president of the Indian National Congress by 1938. In 1939, he showed up on a stretcher and despite being unwell, defeated Mahatma Gandhi’s candidate Pattabhi Sitaramayya. Differences with Gandhiji on his revolutionary ideals led to Bose being ousted from the Congress. After a hunger strike led to his release from prison, he was put under house arrest by the British.

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With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Bose saw it as an opportune moment to wrest freedom from the British. Indian support to the colonial cause during World War I in the hope of getting independence had yielded nothing, except Jallianwala Bagh and the Rowlatt Act. The time had come for more direct action and Bose could go to any length to see India free – even shake hands with the devil if he had to. He believed in the maxim, ‘An enemy of an enemy is a friend of mine’ and sought help of the Axis powers Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan to oust the British.

Accompanied by his nephew Sisir, Bose escaped British surveillance on 19 January 1941 in a car that is now on display at his home in Kolkata’s Lala Lajpat Rai Sarani. Run as a memorial and research center, Netaji Bhavan also houses relics of Bose’s footprints. He crossed the Indian subcontinent from east to west, reaching Peshawar and Kabul. British presence in the area made him travel under disguise as he finally reached Germany on April 1941, where the leadership seemed sympathetic to the cause of India’s independence. In November 1941, with German funds, a Free India Centre was set up in Berlin, and soon Bose was broadcasting every night on Free India Radio.

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A 3,000-strong Free India Legion, comprising Indians captured by Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps, was formed to aid in a possible future German land offensive of India. Few know that the title ‘Netaji’ was given to Bose in Germany by Indian soldiers of the Indische Legion in 1942. The title was used by the German and Indian officials in the Special Bureau for India in Berlin, before it gained popularity in India. Meanwhile, the Japanese occupied Singapore and by January 1942, Rangoon was the next to fall. On 23 March 1942, Japanese troops landed in Port Blair and captured it without firing a single shot. By spring, changing German priorities and Japanese victories in the Far East made Bose think of moving to southeast Asia. Bose met Hitler only once in late May 1942 and the Fuhrer arranged for Bose to be transported by submarine.

On 8 February 1943, Netaji boarded the German submarine U-180 from Kiel and travelled around the Cape of Good Hope to the southeast of Madagascar, where he was transferred to the Japanese submarine I-29. This was the only civilian transfer between two submarines of two different navies during World War II. Bose finally disembarked at Sabang in Japanese-held Sumatra in May 1943. If the term ‘Netaji’ was coined in Germany, equally surprising is the fact that the Indian National Army (INA) was the brainchild of Japan! Japanese major and chief of intelligence Iwaichi Fujiwara met Pritam Singh Dhillon, president of the Bangkok chapter of the Indian Independence League, and recruited Mohan Singh, a captured British Indian army captain to raise an army that would fight alongside the Japanese.

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It had the blessings of Rash Behari Bose, head of the Indian Independence League. The first army was formed in December 1941 and the name INA was mutually chosen in January 1942. In February, from a total of 40,000 Indian personnel in Singapore, about 30,000 joined the INA, of which nearly 7,000 later fought Allied forces in the Burma Campaign and at Kohima and Imphal.

However, disagreements led to the first INA being disbanded by December 1942. Mohan Singh believed that the Japanese High Command was using the INA as a pawn and propaganda tool. He was taken into custody and the troops returned to the prisoner-of-war camp. However, with the arrival of Subhas Chandra Bose in 1943, the idea of an independence army was revived. In May, Bose travelled via Penang and Saigon to Tokyo, where he attended the Diet, met reporters and gave speeches addressing overseas Indians that were broadcast on Tokyo Radio. By July, Bose was in Singapore and it was with equal excitement that we arrived there on the INA trail.

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As we drove past Dhobie Ghaut, the guide pointed out Cathay Cinema (earlier, the Greater East Asia Theatre), where the India Independence League’s Assembly of Representatives met on a drizzly morning of 4th July. To a resounding applause, Rash Behari Bose handed over the reins of the organization to Subhas Chandra Bose. Over the next few days, soldiers of the INA lined up in the padang (ground) opposite the Singapore Municipal Office for inspection and new recruits eagerly joined the ranks.

With Japanese support, Bose revamped the Indian National Army (INA), composed of Indian soldiers of the British Indian army captured in the Battle of Singapore. Bose received massive support among the expatriate Indian population in south-east Asia as many Indian civilians from Malaya and Singapore enlisted. Those who could not, made financial contributions. The INA also had a separate women’s unit – the first of its kind in Asia. The Rani of Jhansi Regiment was headed by Capt. Lakshmi Swaminathan, a doctor from Chennai.

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The India Heritage Centre in Little India has a small section dedicated to the Indian freedom movement. A bust of Subhash Chandra Bose stands in front of a wallpaper made of INA postage stamps. The INA troops were under the aegis of the Provisional Government of Free India (Azad Hind) formed in October 1943, which had its own currency, postage stamps, court and civil code, and was recognized by nine Axis states. An INA uniform was on display while letters, cheque donations and photographs lined the wall. A magazine cover showed Captain Lakshmi in military attire.

The Provisional Government, presided by Supreme commander Bose, was formed in the Japanese-occupied Andaman and Nicobar Islands. On 30th December 1943 Netaji hoisted the Indian tricolor in British-free Indian territory for the first time at Ross Island. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands were renamed Shaheed Dweep (Martyr Island) and Swaraj Dweep (Self-Rule Island). As head of the government, Bose stayed in the British High commissioner’s house and a memorial commemorating his visit was erected near present day Netaji stadium in Port Blair.

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We followed the Bose trail past World War II bunkers dotting the island to Cellular Jail. When Netaji visited the infamous prison, he was welcomed by Admiral Ishikawa, who deliberately kept him away from incarcerated Indians and stories of Japanese torture. Like Singapore, the three year Japanese occupation of the Andamans was a dark chapter in history with innocent islanders tortured mercilessly on charges of espionage, often executed or imprisoned. Like the Changi prison, the Cellular Jail too bears testimony to the bravery of those fighting for freedom.

In early 1944, the INA marched through Kohima Pass and the national flag was hoisted in the Indian mainland for the first time at Moirang in Manipur on April 6, 1944. Kohima was strategically located on the lone road connecting the British supply depot at Dimapur (40 miles northwest) to Imphal (80 miles south). As part of Japan’s Operation U-Go, three columns aimed to cut off the Kohima–Imphal Road and surround Kohima. Between April and June 1944, Kohima witnessed the bloodiest and grittiest fighting seen in World War II.

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The Battle for Kohima was fought in two phases: the 13-day siege from 4 April and clearing Japanese forces from mid-April to 22 June to reopen the Kohima–Imphal road. Both sides suffered high casualties. Grenades were lobbed at point blank range across the tennis court in ‘unending snowball fights’ as soldiers dug holes to burrow or tunnel forward using plates, mugs, bayonets or anything they could lay their hands on. The carefully tended tombstones in the grassy clearing with pretty flower beds seemed a far cry from the bloodbath of WWII. The original Deputy Commissioner’s (DC) Bungalow was destroyed in the fighting and the historic tennis court could be distinguished only by the white concrete lines denoting the boundaries.

The 161st Indian Infantry Brigade’s stand at Kohima blunted the Japanese attack. With the opening of the Dimapur-Kohima road, the 2nd Division and troops from XXXIII Corps supported the counterattack in early May. General Sato, Commander of the 31st Division, ordered Japanese withdrawal, signaling the biggest Japanese defeat in history. British and Indian troops from Kohima and Imphal met at Milestone 110 on 22 June, formally ending the siege.

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The fierce hand-to-hand combat in the Battle of Kohima was a defining moment in the Burma Campaign and halted Japan’s foray into India. Near the entrance of Kohima War Memorial, the Kohima Epitaph bears the immortal words: “When you go home, tell them of us and say; For your tomorrow, we gave our today”.

Despite the reverses on the battlefield, Bose travelled across Penang, Rangoon and Saigon, mobilizing support among Indian expatriates to fight the British Raj. He had great drive and charisma and he coined popular Indian slogans such as ‘Jai Hind’, ‘Chalo Dilli’ and ‘Give me blood and I shall give you freedom’, which he said in a motivational speech at a rally in Burma on 4 July 1944.

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By 1945, almost half the Japanese forces and the INA contingent were killed. A vast number of INA troops were captured, defected or fell into British hands during the Burma campaign by March end. By the time Rangoon fell in May 1945, the INA was driven down the Malay Peninsula and disintegrated although some activities continued until Singapore was recaptured by the British. On 8 July, in Singapore’s Esplanade Park, Bose laid the foundation stone for a hastily-built memorial dedicated to the unknown fallen soldiers of the Indian National Army. On it were inscribed the proud motto of the INA – Etihaad (Unity), Etmad (Faith), Kurbani (Sacrifice).

Instead of surrendering with his forces or with the Japanese, Bose chose to escape to Manchuria in the Soviet Union, which he felt was turning anti-British. Taking off from Taihoku airport at Formosa in Taiwan, his overloaded plane crashed and he died from third degree burns in a military hospital nearby on 18 August, 1945. However, Bose was known for his miraculous escapes and dramatic appearances in the past. From eluding house arrest in Calcutta and his escape to Afghanistan and Europe under various aliases to his submarine journey from Germany to Singapore; his past exploits fuelled the myth of his future return.

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To the Japanese, he was no less than an Indian samurai. Some believed he had become a sanyasi (holy man) called Gumnami Baba. According to various stories, he was seen as a recluse in the Naga hills or on an abandoned island, was a member of a Mongolian trade delegation in Peking, was hibernating in Russia or in a gulag (prison) and was spotted in the Chinese Army. Most believed he was preparing for his final march on Delhi and would reveal himself when the time was right. There were several Bose sightings, one even claiming he met Bose “in a third-class compartment of the Bombay Express on a Thursday.”

Though INA’s military achievements were limited and the British Raj was never seriously threatened by it, the psychological impact was immense. Indian troops fought on both sides at the Battle for Kohima –Jats, Rajputs, Sikhs, Marathas and Gurkhas under the Allied forces versus soldiers of Bose’s Azad Hind Fauj. Had the eastern offensive through Burma and North East by Japan been coordinated with the German advance through Egypt, Iran and Iraq, a war on two frontiers would have stretched the British forces. A Japanese-INA victory and unfurling of the Indian flag could have prompted the Indian sepoy to switch loyalties. Even in defeat, the INA managed to ignite a revolt within the British Indian army.

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Several former personnel of the British Indian Army, captured fighting in INA ranks or working in support of the INA’s subversive activities, were court-martialed. The British charged 300 INA officers with treason and the first joint trial of Shah Nawaz Khan, Prem Sahgal and Gurubaksh Singh Dhillon took place at Red Fort in Delhi. All three were sentenced to deportation for life. The INA trials led to huge public outcry and became a rallying point. It was the last major campaign where the Congress and the Muslim League aligned together. Immense public pressure, widespread opposition and demonstrations eventually led to the release of all three defendants. Besides the protests of non-cooperation and non-violence, there was a spate of mutinies as support within the British Indian Army wavered. During the trials, mutiny broke out across the Royal Indian Navy from Karachi to Bombay and Vizag to Calcutta. In Madras and Pune, British garrisons faced revolts within the ranks of the British Indian Army as NCOs started ignoring orders from British superiors. Another mutiny took place at Jabalpur during the last week of February 1946.

There were several factors that guided British prime minister Clement Attlee to relinquish the Raj in India, but the most important reason was the INA activities of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, which weakened the Indian Army – the very foundation of the British Empire in India. The RIN Mutiny made the British realize that the Indian armed forces could no longer be trusted to prop up the Raj. When Singapore was recaptured in 1945, Lord Mountbatten, Head of Southeast Asia Command, ordered the INA War Memorial to be blown to bits. It was partly an act of vengeance for the pain the allies suffered in Imphal and Burma as well as an attempt to stamp out proof of INA’s existence. After the war, fearing mass revolts and uprisings across its empire, the British Government forbade the BBC from broadcasting the epic tale of the INA. In 1995, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, the National Heritage Board of Singapore marked the spot of the original INA memorial as one of the eleven World War II historic site markers.

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As we walked down Esplanade Park in Singapore, we struggled to find vestiges of the INA Memorial. The Cenotaph of the British Indian Army stood tall in honour of ‘Our Glorious Dead’ of the two World Wars. Further down, a Chinese memorial commemorated Singapore war hero and resistance fighter Lim Bo Seng. Yet, there was no sign of INA – just a few stone slabs with peepholes. Often relegated as a footnote in history and denied the importance in the story of India’s freedom movement, was a memorial too much to ask? A local passing by noticed our perplexed look and kindly explained, “There was a signboard, but they’ve recently removed it for renovation.” We breathed a sigh of relief. Mountbatten may have demolished the original memorial, but the spirit of Bose and the INA live on…

Back home in India, the stories surrounding Netaji had always been shadowed by mystery and controversy for decades. Imagine, it was only on 14th October 2015 that the Government of India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that it would declassify the famous ‘Netaji Papers’. Two months later, the whole country watched the broadcast of the event when the first lot of 33 declassified files were handed over by the PMO’s office to the National Archives of India. It was an emotional moment for several members of Netaji’s family and his admirers as the gesture promised to fill the many gaps and loopholes in tracing the legacy of Subhas Chandra Bose. Subsequently, 150 declassified files of the 250 files are now in public domain. Time and again, Netaji has reminded us how he would remain a statesman the world cannot ignore or bury in the dusty pages of history.

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared in the special issue on Bose in the international biannual journal Re:Markings. 

 

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High on Adrenaline: Top adventures in India

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Surfing, diving, paragliding, zip lining to white water rafting, ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY profile the top adventure hotspots in the country 

Until recently, if you said you were going to Goa for white water rafting and Rameshwaram for kite surfing people would think you were joking. Not any more. India’s fast changing adventure scene holds many surprises with diverse activities that go beyond terra firma…

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Paragliding in Kamshet & Bir-Billing
For the longest time, people were content with the thrill of parasailing or being tugged into the air by a parachute harnessed to a jeep or a boat. But ever since mountaineers figured it’s easier to fly off a mountain than descend on foot, things have never been the same again! Kamshet in Maharashtra is the best place to learn the ropes. Its mild altitude, dynamic wind, moderate weather, profusion of flying institutes and proximity to Mumbai and Pune, make it ideal for beginners. All year round access means you clock more air miles here. Basic and advanced courses like EP (Elementary Pilot) and CP (Club Pilot) are offered, but for more serious stuff like XC (Cross Country) flying, head to Bir-Billing in Himachal Pradesh. The 2400 m high meadow at Billing, 14 km north of Bir, is the launch site with the landing site and tourist accommodations in Chowgan. Manoj Roy, founder and president of Paragliding Association of India, explains that the sport is catching on at Panchgani, Sikkim, Vagamon and Varkala (Kerala), Yelagiri (Tamil Nadu) and Goa. Beaches with hillocks like Anjuna and Baga have soft laminar winds blowing continuously from the sea that let you fly the whole day. An annual paragliding tournament is conducted in Bir in Oct with the PG Fest to be held in the North East in Dec-Jan.

Getting there: Kamshet is 110 km from Mumbai and 45 km from Pune. Bir is 65 km from Dharamsala.

When to go: October to May (avoid rainy season and peak snowfall period in the Himalayas between Dec-Feb)

Cost: Around Rs.18,000 for 3-4 day course, includes stay, food, travel to the hill and equipment

Contact
Indus Paragliding, Karla
Ph +91 7798111000, 9869083838
http://www.indusparagliding.in
Run by Team India pilot Sanjay Pendurkar, the only Indian to take part in Himalayan Odyssey 2010.

Nirvana Adventures, Kamshet
Sanjay Rao
Ph +91 93237 08809
http://www.flynirvana.com

Temple Pilots, Kamshet
Avi Malik
Ph +91 9970053359, 9920120243
http://www.templepilots.com

Hi Fly, Bir
Ph +91 9805208052
http://www.hi-fly.in
Run by Debu Choudhury from Manali, the only Indian pilot to be in the Top 50 of
Paragliding World Cup Association and India No.1 several times

Paragliding Guru, Bir
http://www.paragliding.guru
Run by Gurpreet Dhindsa, BHPA certified paragliding instructor

For more info, visit pgaoi.org, appifly.org and paraglidingforum.in

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Snorkelling & Scuba diving in the Andamans & Pondicherry
Nearly 1000 km from the Indian mainland, ringed by pristine forests, beaches and coral reefs, the Andaman & Nicobar Islands have the best diving and snorkelling prospects in the country. North Bay, a 10 min boat ride from the capital Port Blair, is a good curtain raiser. The 280 sq km Wandoor Marine National Park, a 40 min drive away, is a cluster of 15 islands like Jolly Buoy and Red Skin with decent diving opportunities. However, the best dive sites are found in Ritchie’s Archipelago accessible from Havelock Island, an hour’s boat ride from Port Blair. After introductory sessions at Hathi Tapu or Elephant Beach divers head to remote dive locations like Barracuda City, Dugong Dungeon, Turtle Bay and Barren Island, India’s only active volcano. Numerous dive shops offer a range of PADI courses – from basic one day jaunts to more specialized programs. For some action closer home, Temple Adventures at Pondicherry is a good bet. Named after an artificial reef built 5km offshore resembling the Mahabalipuram Shore Temple, they offer basic training at their facility followed by open-sea dives – 50m at Temple Reef (20 min by boat) or the Wall, an inter continental drop (15km offshore, 45 min by boat).

Getting there: Pondicherry is 160 km south of Chennai. Port Blair, the capital of Andamans is 1000 km off India’s east coast. Regular flights operate from Chennai and Kolkata (2 hrs) besides passenger ships from Vizag, Chennai and Kolkata (56-66 hrs). Frequent ferries connect Port Blair to Havelock (4 hrs) though the Makruzz cruiser covers the 45 nautical miles in 90 min.

When to go: The best months for diving are September-November and February-April, with clear waters and good visibility.

Cost: Rs.6,800/person for a 1-day introductory Discover Scuba Diving program

Contact
Barefoot Scuba, Havelock

Ph 044 24341001, +91 95660 88560
Email dive@barefootindia.com
http://www.diveandamans.com, http://www.barefootindia.com

Dive India, Havelock
Ph +91 99320 82205, 99320 82204
Email vkalia@diveindia.com
http://www.diveindia.com

Andaman Bubbles, Havelock
Ph 03192 282140, 9531892216
Email andamanbubbles@gmail.com
http://www.andamanbubbles.com

Temple Adventures, Pondicherry
Ph +91 9940219449, 9003122231 www.templeadventures.com

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Surfing in South India
Despite a 7,000 km coastline, India has just woken up to the prospects of surfing. Kaliya Mardana Krishna Ashram (aka Ashram Surf Retreat) at Mulki, run by Krishna devotees, offers surfing lessons besides yoga, mantra meditation and healthy veg fare served as prasad. With no smoking/alcohol allowed, it’s the perfect place to detox and learn to ride the waves! Ride the Zodiac boat to local surf breaks like Baba’s Left, Tree Line, Swami’s and Water Tank. Ganpatipule near Ratnagiri is home to Maharashtra’s only surf school run by Ocean Adventures while Kallialay Surf Club at Mamallapuram south of Chennai provides surfing lessons with wakeboards and equipment on hire. For hardcore kite surfing head further south to the temple town of Rameshwaram. The steady wind speed, sparse rains and deep blue sea make it ideal for a certification course with wave-style riding, freestyle or jumps at Swami’s Bay, Lands End lagoon and Fisherman’s Cove.

Getting there: Mulki is 30 km north of Mangalore, Ganpatipule is 300 km south of Mumbai, Mamallapuram is 56 km south of Chennai and Rameshwaram is well connected by rail and road – 3 hr drive from Chennai and Madurai airport.

When to go: Good all year round, with Summer South Winds blowing between Apr–Sep and Winter North Winds between Oct–Mar

Contact
India Surf Club, Mulki
Ph +91 9880659130
Email gauranataraj@gmail.com http://www.surfingindia.net
Cost Rs.3,500-4,500 (double occupancy), surfing lessons Rs.1,500/p/day

Kallialay Surf Club, Mamallapuram
Ph +91 9442992874, 9787306376
Email kallialaysurfschool@hotmail.com

Ocean Adventures, Ganpatipule
Ph +91-99755 53617
http://www.oceanadventures.in
Cost: Rs.2,500 (4 hrs) or Rs.5,000 (3 days)

Quest Expeditions, Rameshwaram
Ph +91 9820367412, 9930920409
Email booking@quest-asia.com
http://www.thekitesurfingholiday.com
Cost: Rs.15,000-30,000 for private or shared lessons of 6-10 hours over 1-2 days. Stay in beach huts for Rs.1,250/person, including meals and transfers to kite spots.

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White water rafting across India
Splashes of cold water, an untamed river and rapids with colourful names, what can be better than the thrills of white water rafting? Criss-crossed by rivers tumbling down mountainous tracts from the Western Ghats to the Himalayas, India is a rafter’s paradise, with each river posing different challenges to the adventure seeker. In Karnataka, grapple with Adi’s Beard or Stanley’s Squeeze on the Kali river at Dandeli or tackle Wicked Witch and Milky Churn on the tumultuous Barapole river in Coorg. At Kolad, Maharashtra’s only white water rafting site, a 14 km section on the Kundalika River boasts a dozen Class II-III rapids like Good Morning Buddha, Johnny Walker, Rajdhani Express and Boom Shankar. India’s latest rafting hub Goa offers a 10 km stretch on the Mhadei from July to September featuring Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks and Y-Fronts. Tilari River Gorge 10 km from Dodamarg on the Goa-Maharashtra border is open between October and May. South India rafting pioneer John Pollard describes Tilari as ‘the most advanced rapids south of the Himalayas’. However, nothing beats the rush of rafting in snow-fed Himalayan rivers. In Ladakh, raft down the Indus near Leh or take on the challenging 14-day Zanskar river expedition (July till September). In Spiti tackle a 25 km stretch from Rangrik (4km from Kaza) to Sichling. In Arunachal, raft on the Subansari or Siang from Tuting to Pasighat. Uttarakhand’s mighty rivers offer Class IV’s with expeditions on the Tons, Alaknanda and Bhagirathi. Rishikesh, India’s most popular rafting run has a 36 km rollercoaster ride from Kaudiyala via Marine Drive, Brahmpuri and Shivpuri to Lakshman Jhula as you go giddy with Three Blind Mice and Sweet Sixteen.

When to go: October-May is the usual rafting season in most places though dam-fed rivers are accessible all year round.

Cost: Rs.1,200-1,500/person

Contact
Red Chili Adventure, Rishikesh
Ph 0135-2434021 Email info@redchilliadventure.com http://www.redchilliadventure.com

Ibex Expeditions
Ph 011-26460244/46 Email ibex@ibexexpeditions.com
http://www.ibexexpeditions.com

Aquaterra Adventures
Ph 011-29212641, 29212760, 41636101 http://www.aquaterra.in

Goa Rafting
Ph +91 9545305734, 8805727230
Email info@goarafting.com http://www.goarafting.com

Coorg White Water Rafting
Ph 08276-2346289 http://www.coorgwhitewaterrafting.com

Wild River Adventure, Kolad
Ph +91-9819297760 www.koladrafting.com

Mercury Himalayan Explorations, Kolad
Ph +91-9272882874 http://www.kundalikarafting.in

Superb Jodhpur Zip Tour Photo Jan 2013_Flying Fox

Ziplining in North India
Ziplining in India promises aerial adventures over battle-scarred ramparts of medieval forts as you feel the heady rush of history and adrenaline. Flying Fox, India’s zipline pioneers, started South Asia’s first zipline at Neemrana in 2007. Story goes when Flying Fox founder Jono Walter met Neemrana Hotel’s Aman Nath, he remarked “I want to fly you over your fort like a vulture.” Aman retorted, “No, no. I don’t want to fly like a vulture, I want to fly like a god!” And so will you, as you zipline five sections over the 15th century fort and the Aravali countryside. From the 330m Qila Slammer launched from an old lookout to the 400m Where Eagles Dare or the Bond-themed Pussy Galore and Goodbye Mr Bond, ending at Big B, named as a tribute to Amitabh Bachhan who zipped from that very spot into the Fort-Palace in ‘Major Saheb’. At Jodhpur, launch from ridges and battlements of the historic Mehrangarh Fort accessed through secret tunnels as you tackle Chokelao Challenge, Ranisar Rollercoaster and Magnificent Marwar, a 300m flight over two lakes landing on the tip of a fortified tower. In Punjab, Flying Fox Kikar at an old hunting lodge is the longest zip-line tour in South Asia and the first forest-based zip-line adventure in India. Upstream of Rishikesh at Shivpuri, zipline from the Snow Leopard Adventure camp over forests in the Himalayan foothills and raging rapids 230 ft below as you span 400 m stretches of High Times and White Water Flyer.

Getting there: Neemrana and Kikar are 2 hr drives from Delhi and Chandigarh respectively, while Shivpuri is a 15 min drive upstream of Rishikesh. Jodhpur Airport is well connected by flights from Delhi and Jaipur.

When to go: All year round

Cost: Rs.1,399-2,299/person

Contact
Flying Fox

Ph +91 9810999390, 011-66487678
Email neha@flyingfox.asia http://www.flyingfox.asia

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared in the October-November 2015 issue of India Now magazine.

Andamans: Walking down the Isle

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With secluded beaches, stunning sunsets and dazzling marine life, the Andaman Islands are a great place for couples, discover ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY

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A pair of Powder Blue Tang circled each other giddily before disappearing into a rocky crevice. Green Staghorn corals bore a velvety sheen as if marine antelopes were rutting on the seabed. The underwater realm of gently swaying ferns, sea fans, iridescent fish and strange marine forms was painted in colours we had never seen before – so dazzling, they were permanently seared in our brains. In a matter of hours we had gone from dropping a week’s supply of fish food in our aquarium in Bangalore at dawn to snorkeling in the Andaman Sea by late afternoon. As we discovered a new world, hand in hand, it was a lot like being in a giant aquarium ourselves…

After flying over the seemingly endless Indian Ocean, the first sight of lush green islands from the air brought us to the edge of our seats. The moment we got off at Veer Savarkar Airport in Port Blair, we inhaled the tropical air and a tempestuous sea breeze tousled our hair with wild abandon in rousing welcome. Andamans was going to be great, we felt and trooped off with the enthusiasm of explorers on the verge of a discovery. A short drive to the hotel and a quick change later, we were on a boat to North Bay, the closest dive site around town. Local boat operators offer a 3-island boat tour including Ross and Viper Islands. At North Bay, tourists are transferred onto smaller glass bottom boats through which they peer at the shaky distorted seabed and squeal in delight. But we were happier snorkeling. North Bay, with its seven coral sites, was merely an appetizer for the main course that lay ahead…

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The best prospects were at the diving hub of Havelock, but we had a few days to explore the mainland. After our introductory session at North Bay, we were off to Ross, the smallest of the 572 islands in the Andaman & Nicobar group. It was hard to imagine that this little blip of a 0.8 sq km island with crumbling edifices choked by roots and vines was once a buzzing hub of colonial high life. The ruins of a bakery, church, bungalows and boiler rooms once echoed with laughter and animated chatter. At its peak, Ross was dubbed as ‘Paris of the East’ because of its grand soirees.

Ironically, just a mile away, Indian freedom fighters languished in one of the most notorious prisons in Indian history. In a searing dichotomy, the Andamans had experienced so much pain and suffering – torn between British colonial rule and Japanese occupation to being battered by the tsunami in 2004 – yet it showered on every visitor so much joy and peace, like a soothing balm over frayed nerves. We walked to the far side of Ross to the forlorn Ferrar Beach lined with rocks and overhanging trees.

Viper Island_Anurag Mallick DSC06722

Partially under the army’s command, the island was dotted with World War II bunkers. Chugging to a dramatic shot of the setting sun, the boat docked at Viper Island where the red gallows at the summit was the site of several grisly hangings. The surviving wooden beam served as a chilling reminder. Many people had perished here, including Sher Khan who stabbed Indian Viceroy Lord Mayo in 1872. It was dark by the time we got back to base.

There’s a lot to do around town and a couple can spend more than a couple of days exploring Port Blair and its getaways. With its lazy undulations and tropical air, it is often described as India’s only warm hill station. We checked out the marine museums, relived the sadness and heroism trapped inside Cellular Jail, witnessed the poignant Sound and Light Show, gawked at North Bay’s palm fringed lighthouse captured on the reverse of a Rs.20 note, browsed for shell, coconut and driftwood souvenirs around Aberdeen Bazaar, drove south for a sunset at Chidiya Tapu and enjoyed a nature trail to Kala Patthar at Mount Harriet National Park beyond Hope Town.

Andamans North Bay view on Indian 20 Rupee note_Anurag Mallick

A great escape from the bustle of the capital, the quiet hilltop hideaway had a lovely old Forest Rest House with watchtowers and gun mounts scattered on the hillside. We were honoured to meet the Andaman Blue Nawab, a haughty butterfly that fed on only one species of plant and chose to starve to death if it wasn’t available! Thankfully, we weren’t as fussy and happily chomped on the wide choice of fish and seafood, sipping cold beer at Marina Park and the town’s only beach, Corbyn’s Cove.

Keep half a day aside for Wandoor Marine National Park, an hour’s drive west of town. The 280 sq km park spread over a cluster of 15 islands is the best dive site near Port Blair. Take a boat to Jolly Buoy, Red Skin or Mahuadera to explore its rich marine life that includes four turtle species – Green Sea turtle, Leatherback turtle, Olive Ridley turtle and the critically endangered Hawksbill turtle. We saw everything from large leatherbacks and giant clams to little Anthias and Fusiliers darting around.

Unloading vegetables at Havelock_Anurag Mallick  DSC06907

From Port Blair the Great Andaman Trunk Road darts north to Baratang with its limestone caves and mud volcanoes blubbing like a thick curry on slow boil. For something more mesmeric, a 45 min boat ride from Havelock to Barren Island, gives the adventurous a chance to see India’s only active volcano as it spews ash and dust. The northbound road from Baratang, broken up by ferry crossings and straits, continues further to Mayabunder and Diglipur. But our tryst with the mainland was over as we were taking the swanky Makruzz to Havelock Island.

We stood on the deck, hypnotized by the wake left by the twin hulled luxury catamaran before returning to our plush seats to enjoy the cruise at 24 nautical miles an hour. The jetty was abuzz with fishing boats unloading bananas and fish while little crafts ferried adventure buffs to remote dive sites in Ritchie’s Archipelago. We caught a cab to the Government-run Dolphin Resort that had a superb location and view, before upgrading ourselves to the luxurious yet eco-friendly Barefoot Resort at Radhanagar (Beach No.7).

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Tucked away on the island’s western side, the beach ranked among the best in Asia and we could see why. The wide shallow crescent was ringed with tall Andaman Bullet Wood trees on the seashore as a handful of tourists enjoyed sunbathing, leisurely walks or watched the sun go down. All the nightlife was on the eastern side at Govindnagar (Beach No.3) where most of the beachside restaurants, cafes, resorts and dive shops were located. Understandably, Havelock was fast becoming a honeymooner’s paradise.

The next morning we took a boat past the Lighthouse to Hathi Tapu or Elephant Beach where trees uprooted during the devastating cyclone provided a striking backdrop. Boats bobbed by the edge as tourists in inflatable tubes waddled around the corals, led by their snorkeling instructors. Like the tiny polyps that secreted these vast colonies of coral, the feathery white sand too had a fascinating origin.

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The multi-coloured Bumphead Parrotfish break off chunks of coral and rocky substrates by ramming its head against it, resulting in a flat bump on the forehead. It grinds the coral rock, feeds on it and excretes fine sand which over thousands of years has shaped some of the most sublime sandy beaches in the world. One Parrotfish can produce up to 90 kg of sand each year. The Blue Streaked Cleaner Wrasse or ‘Doctor Wrasse’ nibble off wound tissue and parasites from larger fish, giving them a manicure, pedicure and facial in the bargain. We were suitably inspired to follow suit and pampered ourselves with relaxing detox and rejuvenation programs in the evening.

On a whim, we took off to Neil Island nearby, an hour’s ride by boat. For those who might find high profile Havelock too touristy, unobtrusive Neil is the perfect answer. We disembarked at the stunningly blue jetty, checked into a beach shack and sampled the day’s catch at a garden café. Neil Island gave us a glimpse of how the Andamans would have been before being discovered by tourism. We explored the caves at Sitapur (Beach No.5) to the south and took a guided Coral Walk during low tide at Laxmanpur (Beach No.2). By the edge of the sea mirrored in pools of saline water was a natural rock bridge – ironically, it was ‘Howrah Bridge’ to the island’s Bengali settlers rehabilitated after the Bangladesh War. We drifted in warm currents and swam with the prospect of seeing dugongs amid grassy shallows and secretly wished that the lone boat that would take us back to Port Blair would forget to arrive…

Andamans Boat Jetty_Anurag Mallick DSC06736

NAVIGATOR

How to Reach
By Air: Located in the Bay of Bengal about 1000 km from India’s east coast, the Andamans is connected by regular flights from Chennai and Kolkata (2 hrs) to Port Blair, the capital.

By Sea: Shipping Corporation of India operates Passenger ships between Port Blair and Vizag (56 hrs), Chennai (60 hrs) and Kolkata (66 hrs).

Getting Around: There are regular ferries from Port Blair to Havelock (4 hrs), besides Neil and Rangat. Makruzz covers the 45 km distance in 90 min. Local cabs are available in all tourism zones.

What to do Together Checklist
Snorkeling or deep sea diving at Wandoor or Ritchie’s Archipelago
Candle-lit gourmet dinner by the surf at Havelock
Long romantic beach walk at Radhanagar or Neil Island
Shopping for souvenirs at Aberdeen Bazaar in Port Blair
Bird & butterfly nature trail to Kala Patthar
Enjoy a sunset at Chidiya Tapu or Mount Harriet
Rejuvenative massage and spa treatment for couples

Hathi Tapu Havelock Island _Anurag Mallick DSC07019

What to Eat 

Port Blair has several eating out options like Corbyn’s Delight and Mandalay, though New Lighthouse Restaurant close to the water park and museum is a good no-frills eatery. Singhotel’s Pink Fly Lounge Bar is a trendy nightspot. Havelock is dotted with resorts that run charming cafes and restaurants like Island Vinnie’s Full Moon, The Wild Orchid’s Red Snapper or Emerald Gecko’s Blackbeard’s Bistro besides little shacks like Anju Coco that serve anything from pizzas and pancakes to great seafood. Barefoot Bar & Brasserie overlooking the jetty is a good vantage point while Barefoot’s Dakshin restaurant close by serves great South Indian.

Where to Stay

Peerless Sarovar Portico
Port Blair’s only beach resort overlooking Corbyn’s Cove
Ph 03192-229311 http://www.sarovarhotels.com

Fortune Resort Bay Island
One of the most luxurious hotels in Port Blair, atop Marine Hill
Ph 03192 234101 http://www.fortunehotels.in

Barefoot at Havelock
Havelock’s swankiest resort blending luxury and eco-friendly charm overlooking Radhanagar Beach
Ph 044 42316376, 9840238042 http://www.barefoot-andaman.com

Mount Hariett National Park_Anurag Mallick DSC07745

Contact
For tourism info
Andaman & Nicobar Tourism
Directorate of Information, Publicity & Tourism, Port Blair
Ph 03192-238473, 232694 E-mail ipt@and.nic.in http://www.tourism.andaman.nic.in

For Mt Harriet & Wandoor National Parks
Chief Wildlife Warden P.O. Haddo, Port Blair 744 102
Ph 03192-233321 Email cwlw@andaman.tc.nic.in

For Diving
Barefoot Scuba
Ph 044 24341001, 9566088560
Email: dive@barefootindia.com http://www.diveandamans.com

Dive India
Ph 03192 214247, 8001122205
Email: info@diveindia.com http://www.diveindia.com

Andaman Bubbles
Ph 03192 282140, 9531892216
Email: andamanbubbles@gmail.com http://www.andamanbubbles.com

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared in the April 2015 issue of Discover India magazine.

The Great Indian Road Trip

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Having criss-crossed India in buses, jeeps, rickshaws, trucks, tractors, tongas, jugaads, chhakdas and assorted transport, ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY present 10 amazing road trips from their travels.

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Be it rallies from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, trips down Asia’s oldest highway GT Road or funky tuk-tuks participating in the Rickshaw Run, there’s no better way to experience India than a road journey. Mountain roads take you through India’s ghats and passes while coastal drives are dotted with battle-scarred forts and ports that shaped the fortunes of traders and empires. From monuments, geographic wonders, wildlife zones to regional cuisine, each journey comes with its distinct sights, sounds and tastes.

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Andaman Trunk Road (Andaman & Nicobar Islands)

The megaphone crackles to life as the convoy of vehicles at Jirkatang police check-post stirs into activity. The inspector’s monotonous drone instructs people not to stop the vehicle, give food or money to wayside tribals, establish contact or take photos else their cameras might be damaged/confiscated. Red clothing is to be avoided. Thus, with a heightened sense of anticipation, the journey up the Andaman Trunk Road commences. The northward route from Port Blair on NH-223 is an amazing 360 km journey through Jarawa territory, a reclusive tribe of Negroid descent, who linger among the shadows of the forest. Fixed convoy timings and ferry crossings at Middle Strait and Humphrey Strait make the trip more exciting. From Chidiyatapu in South Andamans to Aerial Bay in North Andamans, the road weaves past the limestone caves and mud volcanoes of Baratang, Cuthbert Bay Beach near Rangat to Mayabunder and Diglipur in the far north.

Jet Airways flies to Port Blair

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Assam Trunk Road (North East)

From Goalpara in Assam to Roing in Arunachal Pradesh, the 740 km stretch of NH-37 is better known as the Assam Trunk Road. Start the journey from Guwahati for a 600 km run to Upper Assam along the Brahmaputra past tea estates, wildlife parks and old capitals. Cross the Bagori and Kohora ranges of Kaziranga National Park to the tea bungalows of Jorhat run by Heritage North East. Visit the Ahom capital of Sibsagar and the old capital Charideo, built by Sukaphaa, founder of the Ahom dynasty. Cross the historic Namdang stone bridge, a 60 m long bridge hewn from a monolithic rock in 1703. Pass by maidams or royal vaults as you follow the eastward trail to the Chang Bungalows of Dibrugarh, Tinsukia and Dibru Saikhowa National Park.

Jet Airways flies to Guwahati, Jorhat and Dibrugarh

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Konkan Coastal Highway (Maharashtra)

Recreate the famous Bollywood route from Bombay to Goa using the less-explored Sagari Mahamarg (Coastal Highway) instead of the usual NH-17. Beaches, sea forts, temples, palaces, dramatic landscapes and Malvani dishes like kombdi vade (chicken curry) and Malvani fish curry make the drive worthwhile. Explore Portuguese forts at Chaul, Alibaug, Revdanda and Korlai, laze by the beaches of Kashid and take a boat ride to the Siddi bastion of Murud Janjira. Stop at Atithi Parinay, a beautiful homestay near Ganpatipule for the sattvik pleasures of Konkanasth Brahmin cuisine. Visit the birthplace of Lokmanya Tilak at Ratnagiri and Thibaw Palace, residence of the exiled king of Burma. Follow Shivaji’s footsteps from Jaigad to the forts of Vijaydurg, Devgad and Sindhudurg. Explore lesser-known beaches like Mithbav and Sagareshwar or coastal towns like Malvan and Vengurla while staying at Bhogwe Eco-Stay, Maachli or Dwarka Farms. Drop by at Tiracol Fort and Aronda backwaters before crossing the new Kiranpani Bridge to Arambol.

Jet Airways flies to Mumbai and Dabolim Airport, Goa

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Manali to Leh (Himachal/Ladakh)

The Manali-Leh highway, a part of NH 21, is a 490 km adventure that pits a traveler against the world’s highest passes, nullahs (streams), windswept ridges, strange geographic formations and India’s most surreal landscapes. Open for only 4-5 months in a year from May-June to mid-October, the road connects Manali to Lahaul, Spiti and Zanskar valleys in Ladakh. Negotiate the treacherous loops of Rohtang Pass (13,051 ft) in the Pir Panjal range for a night halt at Keylong or Sarchu. Tackle the three great passes of the Zanskar range Baralacha La (16,050 ft), Lachlung La (16,598 ft) and Tanglang La (17,480 ft) with the high road bisecting the rambling More plains, like the Buddhist Middle Path to nirvana. Take an excursion to high altitude lakes like Pangong tso and Tso Mo Riri or continue past the Upshi checkpost to Leh.

Jet Airways flies to Leh and Delhi

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Malabar Coast (Kerala)

The 369 km drive from Kasaragod to Kochi down NH-17 or Edapally Panvel highway takes you along Kerala’s legendary Spice Coast that drew colonial powers for trade in pepper and cardamom. Start from the Malik Deenar Mosque in Kasaragod and forts at Bekal and Chandragiri with a houseboat ride at Valiyaparamba Backwaters. Watch a theyyam at Parassinikkadavu Muthappan temple and 150 species of snakes at the Snake Park nearby. Explore Kannur’s many beaches Meenkunnu, Payyambalam, Thottada and Ezhara while staying at seaside homestays like Kannur Beach House and Shanti Theeram or make a gourmet stop at Ayisha Manzil for ‘Tellicherry Pepper’ cooking holidays. Visit the museum and palace of the Arakkal Ali Rajas and see the colonial imprint of the Portuguese, British and French at St Angelo Fort, Thalassery Fort and Mahe. Chase the surf at Muzhappilangad’s drive-in beach and buy local handicrafts at Sargaalaya craft village in Iringal. Walk on the wide sands of Payyoli Beach where PT Usha learnt to run or watch sea gulls swoop at Kappad where Vasco Da Gama landed in 1498. Visit century old mosques at Kuttichira and feast on pathiris, biryanis, Kozhikode halwa, banana chips and Moplah cuisine. Continue to the ooru (boat) building hub of Beypore, Kadalundi bird sanctuary, past Vallikunnu and Ponnani to Kodungallur, with its Bhagavathy temple, St Thomas Church and Cheraman Juma Masjid, India’s oldest mosque.

Jet Airways flies to Kozhikode and Kochi

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ECR, Coromandel Coast (Tamil Nadu)

With Chola ports, Danish enclaves, French colonies and unique temples dotting the drive, the NH-45A or East Coast Road (ECR) is a journey down history. Drive south from Chennai for a cultural stop at Dakshin Chitra and Cholamandala Art Village or observe muggers, gharials and snakes at Madras Crocodile Bank. Mamallapuram, the maritime capital of the Pallavas of Kanchi, makes for a great halt with its shore temples, bas reliefs, monuments and stone carvers. Cover the stunning Nataraj Temple at Chidambaram, the mangrove forests of Pichavaram and the korai pai (grass mat) makers at Thaikkal. Stay at villas, mansions and boutique hotels at trading outposts from French Pondicherry to Danish Tranquebar. Nagore dargah, Sirkazhi temple and Velankanni’s churches add a spiritual dimension to the trip. Drive south to Ramanathapuram en route to Rameshwaram or continue southward on ECR to Thoothukkudi, a 643 km drive from Chennai.

Jet Airways flies to Chennai

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Karavali Coast (Karnataka)

Hemmed in between the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghats, the 320 km Karavali coastline is a scenic marine drive. Start at Mangalore with the temple of the guardian deity Mangla Devi and the Udupi Sri Krishna temple. Savour Dakshin Kannada fare at an Udupi café or try Mangalorean fish curry and Kundapur chicken. Lose yourself in the dozens of heritage structures transplanted at Hasta Shilpa Heritage Village at Manipal. Take a boat ride from Malpe harbour to St Mary’s Island, relax in the gentle surf at Turtle Bay Trasi or drive past the ocean road at Marvanthe to Baindoor for backwater rides and high sea adventures at Sai Vishram Beach Resort. Say a prayer at the world’s tallest Shiva statue in Murudeshwar and worship the atmalinga at Gokarna while exploring its beaches. Go on banana boat rides at Devbagh Beach Resort and find your muse at Karwar, where Rabindranath Tagore wrote his first poem.

Jet Airways flies to Mangalore

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Desert Run (Rajasthan)

Rajasthani men in fluorescent turbans, rustic women in long veils and herds of camel nibbling on roadside khejri trees holding up traffic, a road trip of Rajasthan is a colourful adventure. From the Pink City of Jaipur to the Blue City of Jodhpur to the Golden City of Jaisalmer, the desert safari packs in many thrills. Near Rohet on NH-65 is the roadside shrine of Motorcycle Baba or Bullet Banna, where travelers pray at his garlanded photo and the enshrined 350 cc Bullet motorcycle for a safe passage. Participate in an opium ceremony in the Bishnoi village of Guda Bishnoi and visit the Khejarli Memorial where 363 people sacrificed their lives to protect a grove of the sacred khejri tree. You can expect milestones bearing strange names like Chacha, Lathi, Bap, Dudu and Luni, trailers ferrying strange equipment to Kandla Port and Hotel Shimla in Pokharan! Listen to Dr Bhang’s sales spiel as he stirs up a bhang lassi at the Jaisalmer Bhang Shop. Visit the ghost town of Kuldhara, an abandoned village of Paliwal Brahmins and ride camels named Michael Jackson and Raja Hindustani in the dunes of Sam.

Jet Airways flies to Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur

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Rann of Kutch (Gujarat)

Surreal salt pans, ancient stepwells, miles of coastal roads and vibrant Kathiawari culture, Gujarat is a relatively unexplored driving destination in India. Driving up Surat and Baroda, arrive at the Gulf of Khambhat coast where the former vidi (grassland) of the Maharaja of Bhavnagar was converted into the Blackbuck National Park at Velvadar. Drive along the coast to the old Portuguese enclave of Diu, the temple at Somnath, Mahatma Gandhi’s birthplace Porbander, the ancient city of Dwarka and the erstwhile princely state of Jamnagar. Cruise around Mandvi, Bhuj and Dholavira to explore the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK), a vast salt-encrusted plain of dark silt. In this remarkable landscape wild asses roam free and large flocks of Demoiselle Cranes and flamingoes breed in winter. LRK is an eco-tone, a transitional area between marine and terrestrial ecosystems and its location on the bird migration route makes it an important stopover for 300 bird species.

Jet Airways flies to Ahmedabad, Baroda, Rajkot and Porbandar

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Punjab Road Trip (Punjab)

A trip to Punjab is more than a scenic ride past mustard fields. On the 300km run from Patiala to Wagah you’ll see rural hamlets with stretch limos, mansions sporting water tanks shaped like weightlifters and roadside restaurants churning lassi in washing machines! At Kila Raipur Sports Festival near Ludhiana, burly men twirl gas cylinders like toys as desi sportstars tug motorbikes and tractors with their beards at Punjab’s Rural Olympics. Follow the Sutlej river to Phillaur, developed by Sher Shah Suri as a caravanserai, used as a daak ghar (postal center) by Shah Jahan and the site of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s fort. The Police Training Academy houses India’s oldest fingerprinting unit set up in 1892 and a museum with weapons, burglary tools, Lord Lytton’s sword and the pen used to sign Bhagat Singh’s death warrant. Follow tractors overloaded with sugarcane to Phagwara with its Jagatjit Town Hall or Kapurthala’s Jagatjit Jubilee Hall featured in the film ‘Tanu weds Manu’. At Jalandhar, watch hockey sticks and cricket bats being handcrafted at the Beat All Sports factory. After a mandatory stop at Amritsar’s Golden Temple, discover bonesetters, kulcha makers and shops selling papad-warian. At Wagah, witness the border-closing ceremony with foot-stomping soldiers and BSF cheerleaders as foreigners pose against signs welcoming all to the world’s largest democracy.

Jet Airways flies to Chandigarh and Amritsar 

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article was the Cover Story for the November 2013 issue of JetWings International magazine. 

Getting Away from It All: India’s Top 10 Great Escapes

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ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY showcase India’s ‘coolest’ destinations, from Himalayan retreats, beach holidays to legendary hill stations

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There are many things for which we blame the British – cricket, bureaucracy, railways, tea and anglicized spellings – but the quaint ‘hill-station’ has to be their most charming contribution. From Snooty Ooty in the Neilgherries where the rules of snooker were laid down, to Simla in the Himalayas, where imperial plans were drawn every summer, most hill retreats were ‘discovered’ by British collectors to escape the scorching heat of the plains. Complete with lakes, botanical gardens, pony trails, golf courses, racetracks, bakeries, the ubiquitous Mall Road and scenic viewpoints and waterfalls named after Company officials and British memsahibs, these Little Englands were hailed as ‘Scotland of the East’, ‘Switzerland of India’, ‘Queen of Hill-Stations’ and other grand epithets.

Some of these hill retreats were developed into sanatoriums and cantonments of the British Empire, where homesick soldiers found rest and respite. The term Doolaly, Brit slang for ‘gone crazy’, originated in the hill town of Deolali in Maharashtra where recuperating soldiers often feigned madness to avoid being redrafted! Netarhat in Jharkhand, considered the Queen of Chhotanagpur, is supposedly a corruption of ‘Near the Heart’! The cool climes drew European planters to set up vast estates of coffee, tea, fruits and spices while missionaries established educational institutions. With time, these outposts became summer retreats for a vast Indian populace.

However, not all hill stations were British finds. Kodaikanal is credited to the Americans while Indian rulers developed their own summer capitals – Almora and Binsar by the Chand Rajas of Kumaon, Kemmangundi by Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV, while Chail was created by Bhupinder Singh, the swashbuckling Maharaja of Patiala to peeve the British after he was banished from Simla for eloping with a British lady! From Horsley Hills in Andhra Pradesh to Pachmarhi in Madhya Pradesh or Saputara in Gujarat to Mount Abu in Rajasthan, the state’s only hill station, India’s cool hideaways stretch from the Western Ghats to the Himalayas. Here are 10 great picks…

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1. Nilgiris (Tamil Nadu)
Lured by the irresistible charm of the swirling mist and eucalyptus-scented air wafting above the sweeping acres of manicured tea plantations, for decades tourists have wound their way up the hairpin bends towards the Blue Mountains. Sprawling bungalows with sloping roofs, monkeytops and vibrant gardens hark back to the colonial legacy of the region while the looming hills cloaked by dense forests are still home to herds of elephant and gaur. If Ooty seems too commercial and Kotagiri somewhat warm, Coonoor is indeed the perfect balance! One of the newest retreats is Tea Nest, run by The Kurumba Village Resort. Surrounded by 1,800 acres of the Singara Tea Estate, the charming colonial bungalow is perched in the shadow of Tiger Hill with its lofty manager’s bungalow and Pakkasuran Hill where Tipu Sultan had an outpost. Relish tea-themed cuisine like tea-mushroom soup and smoked chicken or fish infused in tea, wake up to grazing herds of gaur among the tea bushes or birdwatch from the comfort of your lofty lair. Drop by at Needlecraft in the century old Erin Villa to browse through exclusive petit point embroidery, cutwork and tapestry. Try tea-tasting at the Tranquilitea lounge and buy organic hill produce, Toda shawls and Kota stone pottery at the Green Shop. For complete pampering, surrender yourself to Kurumba’s brand new Jacuzzi suites.

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2. Wayanad (Kerala)
With a sweltering coastline, Kerala’s highlands are the ideal refuge – plantation bungalows in Nilambur and Nelliyampathy to Neelambari, the luxurious Ayurvedic hideaway in a pristine corner of Ranipuram. Yet, Wayanad with its rolling hills and profusion of homestays and resorts is a clear winner. Enjoy solitude in a 500-acre plantation left to grow wild at Fringe Ford near Mananthavady. Stay in luxurious tree houses at Vythiri Resort and Tranquil Plantation Getaway, where you wake up to the carefree whistles of the Malabar Whistling Thrush or choose from 14 nature trails within the property. Rekindle romance in a cave restaurant lit in the warm glow of a hundred candles at Edakkal Hermitage and marvel at Stone Age cave drawings nearby. The newest entrant My Garden of Eden, is a premium plantation retreat set in the hilly tracts of Valathoor near Meppady. Don’t forget to drop by at Uravu near the district headquarters of Kalpetta for an astonishing range of bamboo instruments like binsi (a hollow reed that whistles when swung), rainmaker (cascading seeds that emit sounds of the rain) and other innovative products.

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3. Coorg (Karnataka)
Blessed with nature’s bounty of hills, waterfalls and brooks, Coorg or Kodagu is a paradise that boasts dense forests teeming with wildlife, lush coffee and pepper plantations grown in the shade of rainforest trees, unmatched culture, unique cuisine and the genuine warmth of Kodava hospitality. From rustic and organic homestays overlooking estates and paddy fields to palatial plantation bungalows of the colonial era, Karnataka’s smallest and most mountainous region is also the fountainhead of the Cauvery, South India’s greatest river. Stay at Neemrana’s Green Hills Estate in Virajpet, a town formed after King Virarajendra met Lord Abercrombie to form a historic pact against Tipu, their common enemy. Straddle the Kerala border at Kabbe Holidays and walk along historic trade routes or base yourself at Palace Estate near Kakkabe and trek to Thadiyendamol, the highest peak in Coorg. Discover organic farming at the Rainforest Retreat or stay at exclusive heritage homestays like School Estate in Siddapur, Gowri Nivas in Madikeri and Java Mane near Madapur. For a cool splash in streams, choose from a new clutch of homestays like Silver Brook Estate or Bird of Paradise around Kushalnagar or resorts like Amanvana, Tamara and Kadkani River Resort. Or immerse yourself in colonial comfort at Tata Coffee’s Plantation Trail bungalows around Pollibetta.

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4. Spiti (Himachal)
If Shimla, Manali, Dharamsala and Dalhousie sound too familiar and you’ve been to Ladakh already, head to the Himalayan realm of Spiti for a change. Abutting the Tibetan highlands in eastern Himachal Pradesh, the region is dotted by some of the loftiest homestays in the Himalayas. Perched above the left bank of the Spiti river are the high altitude villages of Langza, Komic (the highest in Asia), Demul, Lhalung and Dhankar, the site of a crumbling monastery that was the first to be built in Spiti and as per legend will be the last to fall. Plan a tour with Spiti Ecosphere to uncover a mystical world of gompas (Buddhist monasteries), amchis (traditional medicine men), Bon traditions (animist religion preceding Buddhism) and unique experiences like the Tibetan Wolf Trail, protecting fossil sanctuaries, Yak Safaris and River Rafting. For a more inclusive experience, participate in rural development projects in this remote and rugged region as you watch locals involved in eco livelihoods like hand-woven handicrafts and organic products available under the brand name Tsering (blessing in Tibetan).

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5. Lake District (Uttarakhand)
Unobstructed views of the Himalayas often stretching across 300 km, stunning high altitude lakes and mythical tales of the divine infuse Uttarakhand with untold magic. The period when the mountains are awash with the fiery glow of rhododendrons leaves every visitor spellbound. Explore the Lake District of Nainital, a reflection of the emerald green eyes of Sati, the majestic Bhimtal and Sat-Tal and the nine-cornered Naukuchiyatal that bestows everlasting bliss on the beholder. Follow the high mountain road to Ranikhet and Majkhali or hike from Nainital to Corbett through forests of broad-leafed sal, oak and deodar, while staying at jungle lodges or century old Forest Rest Houses. Beyond the hill town of Almora, lies the quaint hamlet of Kasar Devi, where spiritual masters, artists and beat poets sought inspiration while Binsar doubles up as a wildlife sanctuary and a hill station. Scenic homestays like Valley View Villa near Ranikhet, The Cottage at Jeolikot, Emily Lodge at Nainital, Emerald Trail at Bhimtal and a chain of resorts by Leisure Hotels across Kumaon and Garhwal offer an assorted bouquet of options. The signature jams, pickles, preserves and flavoured honey available under the Kumaoni label and warm woolens can be picked up at Umang, a local co-operative.

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6. Meghalaya (North East)
A delicious nip in the air along undulating roads and strains of retro music emanating from cafés and mobile phones announces Shillong, touted as the Rock Capital of the East. Picture postcard images unfold in scenic churches, old schools and hill slopes swathed in green. Relive colonial grandeur in sprawling bungalows like Rosaville and the regal Tripura Castle or soak in the luxury of Ri Kynjai resort overlooking the shimmering Lake Umiam at Barapani. Watch locals wager on the age-old game of teer (archery) in the market area, marvel at the dazzling collection of beetles and butterflies at a private museum and savour delicious Khasi cuisine in homes and tiny hotels like Trattoria. Unfold the secrets of ancient root bridges, sacred stones and lonely waterfalls in Mawlynnong, the cleanest village in Asia and at the rain-drenched paradise of Cherrapunjee, track the Dark Rumped Swift swooping along the misty cliffs of Nohkalikai Falls. In this Abode of Clouds, there are other surprises – the surreal limestone contortions of Mawsmai Caves, the sacred groves of Mawflong, fish spas in natural pools and even a Double-Decker Root Bridge!

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7. Konkan Coast (Maharashtra)
The Konkan coast of Maharashtra can rejuvenate your senses in a delicate fusion of nature, peace, solitude and simple pastoral life. From the irrepressible joy of eating luscious Ratnagiri mangoes to golden sunsets along the sea-kissed beaches of Kashid and the historic sea fort of Murud-Janjira to the north and Ganpatipule, Devgad, Sindhudurg, Tarkarli and Sangameshwar stretching to the south. Just off the coast, choose from a host of homestays like Atithi Parinay, Nandan Farms and Dwarka Farmhouse that offer special experiences of farm life. Relish flavours that range from the subtle sattvik fare of Saraswat Brahmins to the spicy indulgence of seafood and Malvani cuisine. Pick up hand-painted pieces of Ganjifa Art at the Sawantwadi Palace or lacquerware toys from Chitaar Ali (Artisans Lane) before driving up to Amboli Ghat. If this is not enough, head north to the high hills of Lonavla, Matheran, Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani for breathtaking views and local specialties like chikkis, sweet corn, homemade chocolates and fudge.

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8. Canacona/Palolem (South Goa)
Far from the psychedelic beach scene of North Goa, serpentine roads lead south to the quieter shores of Canacona and Palolem. Just beyond the main bus stand lies a 12,000 sq ft oasis called Turiya where you can experience a legit mode of mind expansion! Inspired by the fourth state of consciousness, the newly opened 100-year-old yellow Portuguese villa draped by bougainvillea creepers houses a spa offering authentic Ayurvedic and western therapies. Renovated by a well-known architect, the impeccably furnished Turiya exudes a sensual lazy charm with delicious home-cooked food and a cozy verandah overlooking a garden twittering with birds. Personalized visits to the local market for fresh fish and nearby farms to hand pick your choice of vegetables make the holiday unique. If you can drag yourself out of the armchair, there’s Palolem beach just 2km away with bistros and boutiques or the serene Agonda Beach 10 km north, boat trips to Butterfly Island and the promise of dolphin sightings, day trips to Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary and Karwar (Karnataka), besides some of the most scenic trekking trails in South Goa.

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9. Darjeeling/Sikkim (North East)
Surrounded by tea plantations and cradled in the lap of the mighty Kangchenjunga mountain, Darjeeling’s allure has always inspired poets, writers and filmmakers besides scores of tourists to roost upon its cool slopes. Visit local factories to taste the eponymous Darjeeling tea or take a ride in the UNESCO World Heritage train, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) up the Batasia Loops to Ghoom. Apart from a slew of resorts and plantation bungalows, you can check in at the unique Beatles theme lodge, The Revolver, with rooms named after John, Paul, Ringo and George! A more plush option is Mayfair Darjeeling, the erstwhile palace of the Maharaja of Nazargunj. Their newest offering, the ritzy Mayfair Spa Resort in Gangtok fuses a monastic theme with colonial architecture and has raised the bar for luxury in the North East. While in Sikkim, the land of prayer flags and chortens, visit Buddhist monasteries at Pemayangstse, Rumtek and Tashiding and experience the warm hospitality of heritage homestays like Yangsum Farm at Rinchepong, Mayal Lyang at Dzongu and Bon Farmhouse, a birding haven at Kewzing.

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10. Andamans
It is hard to imagine that a notorious penal settlement of yesteryears is today a tropical isle of pleasure. While the remoteness of the Andaman Islands has worked in its favour, its sparse population and laid back charm accentuates the privacy one seeks on a holiday. Located 1000km east of the Indian coastline and fringed by coral reefs and a palette of crystal clear blue waters, the islands are among the finest beach getaways and diving destinations in the world. Take a trip into history in the triad of Port Blair, described as India’s only ‘warm hill station’, Viper Island and the ruins of Ross Island once praised as the Paris of the East. Sunsets at Chidiya Tapu and Mount Hariett, snorkeling above iridescent coral reefs at North Bay and Wandoor, deep sea diving and sport fishing around Ritchie’s Archipelago are not to be missed. Havelock, the main tourist hub bristles with resorts and diving experts like Barefoot Scuba, Dive India, Laccadives etc. Visit during April-May as the waters become murky once the monsoons set in. Grab a tan at Radhanagar Beach, ranked by Time magazine as the best beach in Asia. Scenic Neil Island nearby has a subdued ambience and rustic stay options, making it an offbeat outpost. Besides regular boat access between the main islands, the swanky Makruzz cruise zips across 50km from Port Blair to Havelock in just 1½ hours!

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared on 8 April, 2012 in Deccan Herald (Sunday edition). 

Tryst with Destiny: Indian Freedom Trail

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As part of an Independence Day Special, ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY retrace the journey of India’s freedom struggle, profiling some key and lesser known historic sites they’ve visited across the country

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Andaman & Nicobar Islands
Allegedly used as a pitstop by Lord Hanuman on his aerial flight to Lanka (hence the name), the Andamans played an important part in the Indian struggle for independence. The 1857 Sepoy Mutiny prompted the British to choose the remote Andamans as a penal settlement. Thousands of Indian revolutionaries were sentenced to ‘Saza-e-Kala Pani’ and made to toil night and day under extreme conditions for 10 years to build a seven-pronged prison. Nearly 30 million bricks, made from crushed corals sourced from Dundus Point were used. Each wing had three storeys for solitary confinement in 693 individual cells, thereby giving its name – Cellular Jail. When the siren blared from the central watchtower it indicated that three martyrs had been hanged. The photo displays, sculpted models, relics and Sound & Light show offer a vivid portrayal of the suffering and sacrifice of the patriots. Ross, at 0.8 sq km, the smallest island in the Andamans served as the British headquarters. When Lord Mayo, the Viceroy of India, visited Ross Island in 1872, he went to Mount Harriet, the highest point in South Andamans to enjoy the sunset. When he reached Hope town jetty for the ferry back to Ross, he was ambushed and assassinated by Sher Ali Khan, who was later hanged at Viper Island.

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During World War II, after occupying Singapore and Rangoon, Japanese troops landed at Port Blair on 23 March 1942 and captured it without firing a shot. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Supreme commander of the Provisional Govt of Azad Hind, had allied with the Japanese to oust the British. On 30th December 1943, Netaji hoisted the Indian tricolor in British-free India for the very first time. Andaman and Nicobar were renamed as Shaheed Dweep (Martyr Island) and Swaraj Dweep (Self-Rule Island). Netaji stayed in the British High commissioner’s house and a memorial near Netaji Stadium at Port Blair commemorates his visit. However, the Japanese atrocities at Cellular Jail and the island were kept hidden from him. Over 700 innocent people were taken in 3 big boats and thrown overboard near Havelock Island in the dead of the night. In a similar incident, 300 islanders were killed at Tarmugli Islands off Wandoor. Just off the road to Wandoor, lies a dark gloomy park on a small hillock at Humphreyganj. On 30th January 1944, 44 innocent people detained at Cellular Jail on false spy charges, were brought here and brutally murdered. Today, the trench where they were buried is marked by a memorial… Ironically, while India’s freedom fighters perished in prison, some of the islands were named after British heroes of the mutiny like Havelock, Neil, William Peel, Outram and John & Henry Lawrence.

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Madurai, Tamil Nadu
Madurai was an important landmark in the life of Mahatma Gandhi. Surprisingly, he made five visits to the city. On his second visit to Madurai in 1921, disturbed by the plight of poor farmers, Gandhiji shed his long coat and donned his trademark loincloth. In 1934 he refused to step inside the Madurai Meenakshi Temple when his escort was not allowed inside because he was a harijan. This triggered the ‘Temple Entry Movement’ for untouchables. Only after Vaidyanath Iyer opened the doors of the temple to everybody in 1939, did Gandhiji enter the shrine in 1946! During the renovation of the temple, a mural artist was so inspired by this event, that he painted an image of Mahatma Gandhi on the temple walls. The Gandhi Memorial Museum in Madurai, set in the beautiful Tamukkum Summer Palace of Nayaka queen Rani Mangammal is one of the seven museums in the country dedicated to the Mahatma. It showcases Gandhiji’s life through rare photos, quotes, murals and letters. The Hall of Relics and Replicas contains 14 original artefacts used by Mahatma Gandhi including a shawl, spectacles, yarn and the bloodstained cloth worn by him when he was assassinated.

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Vellore Fort, Tamil Nadu
Few people are aware that the first mass rebellion against British rule took place at Vellore Fort, 50 years before the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny or the First War of Independence! Though it lasted just for a day the 1806 Vellore Mutiny wreaked immense havoc and damage on the British. The cause of this revolt was a change in the Sepoy dress code in November 1805. Incited by the decision of the British to disallow Hindus from wearing tilaks on their foreheads and the demand for Muslims to shave their beard and trim their moustache, Indian soldiers stormed the bastion and killed nearly 200 British troopers in a day-long attack that rewrote history. Tragically, they were subdued by reinforcements from Arcot and nearly 700 Indian soldiers were gunned down. However, this wasn’t the first challenge the British faced in Tamil Nadu. Veerapandiya Kattabomman, an 18th century Poleygar chieftain fought against the British alongside the brave Marudu brothers. Treason led to his execution on 16 October 1799 at Kayatharu on NH7, near Tirunelveli. Today, a memorial has been erected at the site. The historic Vellore Fort is a 16th Century citadel that served as the erstwhile headquarters of the Late Vijayanagara Empire. The fort was built in 1566 by Chinna Bommi Nayak and Thimma Reddy Nayak, subordinates to Sadasiva Raya of Vijayanagara. As a result of the struggle for power among the squabbling Raya families, the fort suffered gradual decline and witnessed the brutal royal genocide of Vijayanagar king Sriranga Raya’s kith and kin. Soon the Deccan Sultans swept in to take control followed by the Marathas, the Nawabs of Arcot and the British.

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Pazhassi Raja’s Tomb, Wayanad
This is the story of how the tiny district of Wayanad in Kerala influenced one of the world’s most famous wars, The Battle of Waterloo. Under the treaty of Srirangapatnam, when Tipu Sultan ceded Malabar to the British, Pazhassi Raja of Kottayam (a small village 70 km from Mananthavady) was among the first to revolt against the British. Persecuted, he took refuge in the dense jungles of Wayanad and organized local tribals into an irregular army, launching a long period of guerrilla warfare against the British. In a famous incident, an entire division of 360 soldiers of the British army camping at Panamaram was slaughtered. News of his courageous exploits spread like wild fire, earning him the title Keralasimham or the Lion of Kerala and he soon garnered support from far and wide.

For nine years, he managed to elude the British by constantly moving and hiding in the caves at Pulpally. In a bid to capture him, the British launched a two pronged attack. Young Lord Wellesley camped with his contingent at Mysore while TS Baber, the Collector of the Madras Presidency called in the British army from Thalassery and studied his guerilla tactics. When they caught Pazhassi Raja’s two generals, the Britishers amputated their limbs and hanged them as a warning to locals. Eventually, someone betrayed Pazhassi Raja who chose to end his life by swallowing his diamond ring rather than being caught alive by the British; bringing the rebellion to an abrupt end. Impressed by his bravery, TS Baber carried the king’s body in his own palanquin as a mark of respect. Pazhassi Raja’s tomb is located in Mananthavady.  It is said that Lord Wellesley learnt the rules of guerilla warfare while pursuing Pazhassi Raja in the hills and jungles, which the Duke of Wellington later employed in the historic Battle of Waterloo against Napoleon.

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Phillaur Fort, Punjab 
Located on the banks of the Sutlej, Phillaur is the site of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s historic fort when Lahore used to be the capital of undivided Punjab. On account of its strategic location, it was first developed as a serai for trading and military purposes by Sher Shah Suri around 1540. Mughal Emperor Shahjahan later revived it, using it as a Dak ghar (Postal Center) and Military camp. After the Amritsar treaty of 1809 with the British East India Company, Phillaur became a border post of the Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s Lahore Empire. With help from an Italian architect, the serai was converted into a fort. Presently called Maharaja Ranjit Singh Fort, it houses a Police Training Academy (PTA). The Fingerprint Bureau set up in 1892 is one of the oldest of its kind. The Museum retraces India’s freedom struggle in Punjab and the history of Punjab Police with panels on the Anglo-Sikh Wars, 1928 Lahore Conspiracy case and major battles. Vintage guns, artillery, swords, tools of burglary and theft are also displayed! The highlights include the sword of Lord Lytton, the pen used in Lahore Court to sign the death warrant of Bhagat Singh and the finger imprints of Udham Singh, who shot and killed Michael O’Dwyer in 1940 at Caxton Hall in London. O’Dwyer was the British Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab during the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Interestingly, the popular hymn ‘Om Jai Jagdish Hare’ was composed in Phillaur in the 1870s by local litterateur Shardha Ram Phillauri. 

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Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar
On the evening of April 13, 1919, the people of Amritsar gathered for a peaceful protest against the Rowlatt Act in Jallianwala Bagh, a public garden near Harmandir Sahib. It was Baisakhi festival and a Sunday, so nearly 15,000 to 20,000 people had assembled (including Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, women, senior citizens and children). When news of the protest reached Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer, he arrived with 65 Gurkha and 25 Baluchi soldiers, an hour after the meeting began. The British were already paranoid after the Lahore conspiracy trials, the possible influence of the Russian revolution on India and the Third Anglo-Afghan War, so Dyer was convinced that a major insurrection was on. Dyer ordered fifty riflemen to open fire on the gathering. For the next ten minutes they kept firing till the ammunition ran dry. Nearly 1,650 rounds were fired and 1,302 men, women and children were killed. The narrow lane had a single entry and exit that was blocked by huge armoured vehicles, forcing many to jump into a well in the compound and perish. The site was acquired by the nation through public subscription on 1st August, 1920 at the cost of Rs.5.65 lakh and a Flame of Liberty Memorial erected. The Martyr’s Well from where 120 bodies were recovered and the wall riddled with 36 bullet marks serve as a chilling reminder of this heinous incident.

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Khonoma, Nagaland
The British first came into contact with the fierce Nagas in 1832, when Capt. Jenkins and Pemberton ventured into Angami territory for a strategic road survey between Assam and Manipur. In the years to follow the British met with stiff resistance from the Nagas everywhere. After the British adopted a policy of non-intervention in 1851, the Nagas launched 22 raids against the British, who finally attacked the Angami stronghold of Khonoma. Captain John Butler described Semoma Fort, a stone bastion, as ‘the strongest in the North East’. Each time the fort was destroyed; it rose phoenix-like, defiantly rebuilt to endure the next attack. In 1879, the killing of British political agent GH Damant resulted in the Battle of Khonoma, the last organized Naga resistance against the British. After booby-trapping the area the Nagas escaped to the mountains. The British eventually settled for a peace treaty, ending half a century of fighting and acknowledged their autonomy. The Nagas earned profound respect from the British and their evolution from a ‘savage race of head-hunters’ to the ‘cradle of civilization’ was swift.

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Moplah Rebellion, Malabar
Malabar, the northern tract of Kerala, was the site of a bloody rebellion by the Muslim Mapila community against the British and oppressive Hindu landlords. Perinthalmanna, 3 km from Angadipuram in Malappuram, was the nerve center of the Moplah revolts of 1896 and 1921. The 1921 rebellion began as a reaction against a heavy-handed crackdown on the Khilafat Movement by the British authorities in the Eranad and Valluvanad taluks of Malabar. Even the sacred shrine of Angadipuram was not left untouched and was used as a protective abode by rioters. Open fights broke out in the courtyard during which the temple suffered extensive damages, which were duly repaired. Adjoining the Valiya (Big) Juma Masjid in Ponnani is a mausoleum of the Malappuram martyrs whose deeds have been immortalized in Moplah ballads.

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Sidho Kanhu Smarak, Jharkhand
The Sidho Kanhu Santhali Sanskritik Kendra at Massanjore perform an old Santhal ballad about their folk heroes. As the Mayurakshi flows silently behind, girls sway in their green saris, the mandhar (tribal drum) taps a primal beat and Santhal boys dance with ghungroos tied to their feet. The song recounts the tale of  the brave Sidho Kanhu, who had been imprisoned by the British for rebelling against the unjust tax imposed on tribal forest land. As their brothers Chand and Bhairon wistfully watched from afar, astride their horses, Sidho and Kanhu were hanged from a banyan tree at Bhognadih near Baghdaha More. The song goes on to say that there was so much sadness, even the horse had cried… Another enigmatic folk figure was the brave Birsa Munda, who fought for tribal rights against the British. He was captured through treachery on 3 February 1900 and died mysteriously in Ranchi Jail on 9 June 1900. He was only 25 years old. Ranchi airport is named after him while his birth anniversary, 15 November, is celebrated every year at Samadhi Sthal, Kokar in Ranchi.

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The Ridge, Delhi
The last outcrop of the Aravalli Hills rising 60 ft. above the city of Delhi, the Ridge was where the British pitched camp just 1200 yards from the city walls during the siege of Delhi from June to September 1857. Flagstaff Tower was the first rallying point for the Europeans when the mutiny reached Delhi. The Mutiny Memorial, an ornate 110 feet Gothic edifice, was erected in 1863 after the mutiny at the site of Hodgson’s battery. The red sandstone octagonal structure was built in memory of the soldiers of the Delhi Field Force, who were killed in action or died of wounds between 30th May and 20th September, 1857. The names of the British soldiers can be found etched on marble slabs around its base, which also bear a passing mention of the native soldiers who fought on behalf of the British.

Delhi is littered with sites linked to the 1857 Mutiny. At the Red Fort, mutineers had crowned Bahadur Shah Zafar as the Emperor of India. Humayun’s tomb was where Captain Hodgson arrested Bahadur Shah who was hiding with his three sons and a grandson, and they were subsequently beheaded. Badli-ki-Serai on G.T. Road was the site of a battle fought on 8th June 1857 between the sepoys and the Gordon Highlanders, to whom a memorial exists in Azadpur Sabzi Mandi. Kashmiri Gate was where the British made a final assault on Delhi on 14th September 1857. Brigadier General John Nicholson’s grave lies in the Kashmiri Gate cemetery. St James Church nearby was built by the legendary James Skinner in 1836 who once lay wounded on the battlefield and vowed that he’d build a church for the British, if he survived. The church was badly damaged during the 1857 Mutiny, its dome was pitted with holes as it served as targets for firing practice by sepoys. The structure was later repaired by the British and restored to its former glory.

Barrackpore, West Bengal
Located on the eastern bank of the Ganges about 15 miles from Calcutta, Barrackpore was the site of a military barrack set up in 1772, making it the first cantonment of the British East India Company. However, not one, but two rebellions took place against the British at Barrackpore. The 1824 rebellion was led by Sepoy Binda Tiwary of the 47th Bengal Native Infantry. Being upper caste Hindus, they refused to board boats for Burma in the First Anglo-Burmese War as crossing the seas would pollute their religious beliefs. The British decimated the rebels with an artillery barrage. Later, rumours that the British had greased the Enfield cartridges with lard (which had to be bitten off) ignited the first spark during the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny. Muslims suspected the grease to be pork fat while Hindus assumed it originated from beef. Mangal Pandey attacked his British commander and was subsequently court-martialled and executed, while punitive measures were taken against other rebel sepoys.