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News Entry# 287001
Nov 28 2016 (13:00)  Experience the Wonders of the Great Indian Plateau (
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Commentary/Human Interest

News Entry# 287001     
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firmly holding the Deccan Odyssey brochure in my hand, I walk down a carpeted path to the entrance of platform no. 18 of Mumbai's historic Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. The train aboard which I would be spending the next 7 days to rediscover the art of sophisticated travelling has already arrived.
As the train chugs along at a slow pace over the tracks, I spot performers dressed in flamboyant outfits, waving at us. They start performing the folk dance form Lezim with revelry in tune with the traditional music playing. As the song picks up momentum, so does their performance. Their foot movements work in consonance with the jingling cymbals. A warm traditional welcome marks the beginning of the royal adventure. The crew
puts a tilak on my forehead, and garlands me amidst beating of drums.
To step aboard The Deccan Odyssey is to enter a totally different world. This is where luxury, opulence and hospitality come together to remind you of a bygone era. The experience of traversing the mountains, glens and villages to reach the ultimate destination is as incredible as the journey itself.
I settle into the leisurely pace of life on board, and enjoy the lush landscape as the train chugs along and weaves through different towns. Soon I am requested by a staffer to take a tour of the train. Stress fades quickly and I am enthused with the idea to understand how every coach is designed to an incredibly high standard.
Designed to rival other similar luxury train journeys, the Deccan Odyssey has focused on lustrous woodwork, textiles, on-board services and top-of-the-line dining.
We begin with The Deccan Odyssey’s conference car Pankh. Equipped with all the latest facilities and an amazing book collection, this is the area where your business needs will be taken care of. Interestingly, this is also the space where you can strike up exciting conversations with other guests over a fun-filled game of carom.
Next, I head to The Gateway (Lounge/Bar) which offers a selection of rare hard drinks and cautiously crafted cocktails. Restaurants Waavar and Utsav whip up authentic Indian and continental fare, serve lip-smacking dishes on gold-plated and silver cutlery.
These might be two coaches on the train but they are certainly ahead of many of the big-city restaurants. Cooking with perfection and a style that is both sprightly and light, yet flavoursome, both Waavar and Utsav know how to give an interesting spin to popular dishes, without losing touch with the essence.
Madhav Rathore, the head of operations at the Odyssey, explains me why India’s luxury train with its tour to explore the splendid open countryside, seaside scenery and some fascinating cities, is the best thing that can happen to any traveller.
“Travelling on Odyssey for a week-long holiday is indeed a wonderful way to see the vast Deccan area over a short period of time. And the tour offers the best sites that the area has to offer”, he says.
The conversation on the first night ranged from travel, trains and the country’s traditions. The close setting is comforting and camaraderie is easily struck up. With just 10 guests, day 1 on the Deccan Odyssey makes me feel it is an indeed impressive top choice for anyone exploring India’s Deccan region in the most intimate, distinctive style.
Bijapur, officially referred to as Vijayapura, is the land of five rivers and a melting point of varied cultures. The ancient city was established in the 10th and 11th centuries by the Chalukyas of Kalyani. During our day long visit to Bijapur, we explored its historical monuments – constructed during the rule of Adil Shahi dynasty – that still are of huge architectural significance.
When one utters the name Bijapur, the first thing that crosses one’s mind is Gol Gumbaz – the tomb of Mohammed Adil Shah - which can be seen from almost any part of the city. Towering 50 meters above the city, this astounding imposing edifice is an impressive example of late-medieval Indo-Islamic architecture. With a diameter that measures 44 metres, Gol Gumbaz has the largest dome ever constructed in India.
As I marvel at the structure which took about 30 years to build and take the steep steps, I reach the interior of the dome and the ‘whisper gallery’. It is here that the cacophony never ceases, because every word you utter echoes back - 11 times over.
Our next stop Ibrahim Rouza may not have been as popular as the Gol Gumbaz, but it is as magnificent as the aforementioned architectural marvel. Even though it was built as a tomb for Adil Shah’s wife, it turned into his resting place. Considering the intricate detailing that has gone into building the structure, it had to be an inspiration to the Taj Mahal.
I reach Malik-e-Maidan - a huge cannon perched on the top of a tower - in about 15 minutes. It isn’t just a weapon but a piece of art. The muzzle has the open mouth of a lion and under its curved fangs small elephants, one on each side. And on top of it is an inscription commissioned by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. The cannon which is 8.5 metres long and 1.5 metres in diameter, weighs 55 tons.
I board the bus again to reach the next tourist spot - Jumma Masjid. Also built by Ali Adil Shah, this is one of the largest mosques in South India. The day ends by visiting Mehtar Mahal, a 17th century ornamental gateway to a mosque, and later a drive back to the Deccan Odyssey.
Even though the travelling was stressful, it was indeed an experience to visit both historic and travel destinations, go back in time, and conjure up images of the kings of Adil Shahi dynasty.
Back on board, by second day the train begins to feel like home and fellow passengers seems like family.
As the Deccan Odyssey snakes its way into Deccan plateau and rolls into Bagalkot, I anticipate a day (Day 3) that would help me learn more about the temples and ancient settlements of Aihole and Pattadakal, one of the world's largest temple complexes.
After a scrumptious breakfast at Utsav, as I disembark, a group of men – dressed in white kurta and dhoti – greet me by beating dhols and playing the shehnai. After I get my forehead anointed with the red tika, I board a luxury bus to explore the astounding cluster of magnificent temples at the main World Heritage Site at Pattadakal.
Whether it is the bunch of miniature shrines or the larger monuments, it’s their flawless construction and intricate design that will grab your attention.
There are 10 key temples in Pattadakal, which have been dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temples exemplify both South Indian (Dravidian) and North Indian (Nagara) styles of architecture. These temples acquired the status of a world heritage site in 1987, courtesy their eternal beauty and historical significance.
While Virupaksha Temple (early called Lokesvara Temple) is the largest temple in Pattadakal, and also popular among travellers, Galaganath Temple houses a huge Shiva Linga (Sparsha Linga) along with tiny figurines of Lord Kubera and Gajalakshmi.
The Sangmeshwara temple’s construction was finished in 733 AD by the Chalukya king Vijayaditya Satyashraya. Its edifice was built following the Dravidian style of architecture and is extraordinary for its thorough design and architecture. The Mallikarjuna temple contains multiple facets of Dravidian architecture.
As I head to Aihole, I find the entire Aihole village swamped with temples – there were structures just about everywhere. Even though Aihole is a spot of great heritage and religious interest, it pales in comparison to Pattadakal.
Interestingly, Badami cave temples that have been carved from a huge sandstone cliff stands out. With an architectural style – which is a fine line between Nagara (north Indian) and the Dravidian (south Indian), Badami cave temples can’t be missed.
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