Invited by FICCI (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry) in partnership with Government of Uttar Pradesh, a group of approximately 60 international visitors from the travel industry (buyers) descended upon Uttar Pradesh, India on 8 August 2019.
The event was the fifth edition of Uttar Pradesh Travel Mart 2019 which was held in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India. The event is organised to promote Uttar Pradesh, an important strategic area of tourism in a substantial way. Areas within the state which are not all that well known and do not appear frequently on inbound travel itineraries.
In typical Indian style of gracious hospitality, the inaugural event was held at the Radisson Hotel in Lucknow. The evening of good food, making new friends and watching a vibrant live show depicting the love that the Gopis had for Lord Krishna, heralded in what turned out to be a fabulously successful travel mart.
Shri Yogi Adityanath Honourable Chief Minister - Uttar Pradesh, formally opened the Travel Mart on the first day.
With incredible professionalism and hospitality we were introduced to Uttar Pradesh's finest destinations, travel companies and destination managers in the two days which followed.
Many new associations and friendships were formed. Enough information about the area was relayed to the buyers to enable us to put Uttar Pradesh squarely on our itinerary solutions for inbound travellers to India.
Luckily for us visitors we arrived on the waning side of the Indian summer, so we could get to enjoy the magical grandiose sights of Lucknow. This city seems to be an unexplored and hidden secret in terms of tourist itineraries. On the banks of the Gomti River, Lucknow, which is regarded as one of India’s finest is unknown to many of us. I for one am very grateful and enriched to have been introduced to this gem of Uttar Pradesh.
This “Golden City of the East” abounds with majestic monuments and buildings which speak of its glorious past.
Lucknow very well known for its cuisine and culture as well as being home to Chikankari the exquisite shadow work - embroidery on fine muslin cloth which is renowned worldwide.
Immaculately designed Chikan outfits can be bought at the high end outlets in Modern Lucknow, but many bargains can be had if you have the fortitude and patience to walk the cobbled streets of Old Lucknow.
A good idea is to take a Lucknow Heritage Walk which will give you the opportunity to explore some of the the city’s other unique crafts like zari embroidery, perfume shops, metal shops, pukka shops, dance studios and more.
Lucknow is renowned for its kebabs and while walking the streets of the old city, one hs a choice of different kebab’s to relish. Galouti Kebab, Ghutwa Kebab, Pasanda Kebab, Shami Kebab or Boti Kebab - each different kebab type being more mouth watering than the other..
FAMILIARISATION TRIPS FOR VISITORS
FICCI and Uttar Pradesh Travel Mart hosted the international visitors to familiarisation trips around the lesser frequented areas of Uttar Pradesh. Two routes were explored, one being Buddha’s Footsteps and the other Krishna’s Trail at Brajbhoomi.
The trail of Buddha’s Footsteps took the visitors to Sravasti where they visited the ancient site of Saheth-Maheth. Then onto Kushinagar where they visited Mahaparinirvan Termple, Ramabhar Stupa, Matahkunwar shine and Srilankan Japan Temple.
The last stop of the trip was Varanasi where the visitors explored Deer Park where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon and in the evening the visitors proceeded to the Ganges in Varanasi to attend the Ganga Aarti Ceremony. This was a highlight as it was a first for many of the guests. The final morning of their trip gave the visitors the opportunity to proceed to ghats and enjoy a boat ride on the Ganges.
A beautiful sunrise was viewed by the visitors and they also experienced the activities of the Hindu rituals. A city tour which included Vishunath Temple (Golden Temple), Durga Temple, Bharat Mata Temple was enjoyed by all.
Krishna’s Trail at Brajbhoomi a journey from the writer’s perspective.
We started our journey from Lucknow to Agra by bus. Although the express ways in Uttar Pradesh are in good condition, the tourists buses are required to travel at maximum speed of 80kms/h so this makes the bus journey a long one. Where it should normally take about 4.5hours to travel the 336kms by car is much longer by tourist bus. Be that as it may, this was the most expedient way for the organisers to transport 20 people to their destination.
Nevertheless, long journey and all we set off to Agra. A most appealing aspect was viewing the wonderful farming activities along the highway. At this time of year Uttar Pradesh is lush and green.
Our Itinerary included Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri, but because of the time delay, we got to experience only the spell bounding Taj Mahal at sunset. A spectacular sight such as this is worth the long drive and delayed arrival.
We took accommodation at the newly opened Holiday Inn on MG Road, Agra. It was an oasis for us weary travellers. A welcoming, clean and professionally managed establishment. From the moment we arrived to the time we left the hotel, we had everything at our finger tips. The staff and service was top quality.
A professional and capable local Agra guide from the company Agrabeat escorted me to experience a different perspective of Agra. The view of the Taj Mahal that I was confronted with compensated for the heat of the day and the challenging terrain that we had to negotiate to get this view of the iconic world heritage site.
To get to the hill which afford us this incredible view, we needed to go through a local village. Here we stopped for Chai and Pakora. Although it was the festival of Eid al-Adha, and Islamic holiday, the children of the family, who had a school holiday, were sitting on the charpoy bed doing their school work. I was very moved by this scene of diligence and my heart felt warm with hope knowing that people of such calibre will be the future leaders of this planet.
The evening our Agra visit was rounded off with a walk in the busy lanes of the bazaar where we enjoyed the best paratas that I have tasted, Indian Coffee and dessert Agra is renowned for - Petha. We also got to view the preparation of the Paratas by “The King of Parata” Mr Ram Babu Parenthewala. He uses iron plates that weigh 50kgs to fry his paratas on. The freshest of flour is used and generously covered with fresh ghee during the entire process of frying - delicious!!
Vrindavan also known as Brindaban, is a historical city in the Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh. It is a most sacred place and is located in the Braj Bhoomi region, and is where, according to Hinduism, Lord Krishna spent most of his childhood days. Mathura is the birthplace of Krishna and the town hosts many temples dedicated to the worship of Radha and Krishna.
Onward on the journey to follow Krishna’s trail which lead us to visit many temples dedicated to Krishna and celebrating different events during his life.
Barsana where we visited Kriti Mandir Barsana, this place is a modern day temple and is dedicated to the mother of Radha. It is the only temple in India dedicated to the mother. This structure was built by the same person who built Prem Temple in Vrindavan.
Kriti Mandir Barsana Photos by Michele Immelman
Giriraj Temple Govardhan - Giriraj means ‘Lord of the Mountain’. This temple is also known as Daan Ghati Temple, the place where Krishna used to take butter from village women. The deity of this temple is in the form of a rock. When the deity is dressed up by temple pujaris it looks like Shri Krishna holding Govardhan Parvat (hill) on his little finger. Besides sweets, the main offering to the deity is milk and milk offerings. On special occasions and festivals, the deity is offered fifty six varieties of offerings
Devotion at Giriraj Temple - Photos by Michele Immelman
Kusum Sarovar - a sandstone monument on the holy Govardhan Hill. It is also the place of Hat ruler Maharja Suraj Mal’s memorial chhatri. Apart from architectural magnificence, it has religious importance for being an explicit part of the celebrated pastimes of Sri Radharani as she used to pick up flowers from here and spend time with her friends and Lord Krishna on the Ghats of this Kund.
Lord Chaitanya also bathed in the cooling waters of this Kund as it is believed that one who takes a bath in the waters attains pure love the Supreme Godhead and qualifies for witnessing the eight fold pastimes of Lord Krishna and Radha.
Nidhivan Temple - The temple is named from Nidhi which means treasure and van meaning forest. The major part of the temple is lavished with a huge busy forest. Everywhere there is greenery and twisted trees. The mystery of the forest is that there are wells, all roots, branches and trunks of trees but they are hollow, yet the twigs and leaves are lively and stay green throughout the year.
Mysteries of the Temple - It is said that Lord Krishna comes here every night and performs spiritual activities called Raslila with Radha and all his gopis. It is believed that after closure of the temple every day Lord Krishna and Radha appear and perform Was Leela and if anyone sees these activities, the person loses speech, becomes deaf and blind. Inside the Rang Mahal, the priest puts toothbrushes every day, a sari, bangles, paan leaves and some holes water in a jug with few sweets and prepares a bed after Aarti in the night. In the morning, everything is found scattered as if someone has used it. With the result all all required to leave the premises at night, even the monkeys leave the Nidhivan Temple after evening aarti.
Another mysterious fact of Nidhivan is the shape and size of the trees. They are short and intertwined with each other, they are the same height. It is believed that the trees are Lord Krishna’s Gopis and their intertwined shape is aroma of love between them. The trees are devoid of birds and insects.
Entrance to Nidhivan Temple - Photos Michele Immelman
Accommodation for the visitors in Mathura was at the Nidhivan Sarovar Portico. The stay at this hotel was pleasant, the rooms are comfortable. The food served is vegetarian, and delicious.
On the way to our hotel, I was struck by the huge Durga Statue which is visible from a busy road in Mathura.
The other temples dedicated to Lord Krishna which the visitors on the Krishna Trail visited are: Bihariji Temple, Iscon Temple, Sahji Temple and Prem Mandir Vrindavan.
Mathura is a colourful and interesting town, we explored the streets and stalls as we walked to the Dwarkadhish Temple dedicated to Lord Krishna with its Jagat Mandir. The Dwarkadhish temple, touted as one of the holiest temples in the city of Mathura, is famous all over the country for its elaborate architecture and paintings. Built only in the year 1814, the temple is relatively new but is highly revered. Situated within the perimeter of the city's holy gate, near the ghats of River Yamuna, the temple and its surroundings are a hub of a lot of interesting activities. Thousands of devotees arrive here every day to pay their obeisance.
Evening Aarti is performed every night at the Vishram Ghat. The name literally means - the place where Krishna rested after the war with Kanshai his evil uncle.