The sights of India are magical. At any given point of the year the country opens up to the traveller snowbound territory, desert sand-dunes, mystical seas, gorgeous palaces, wondrous forts, untamed wildlife and spiritual quests. Quite a rendezvous! Isn't it? Begin the excitement in the moon-land of India, that is, Leh. Beyond the Pirpanjals are the mighty Himalayas cradling the immortal river Indus. The same, which gave birth to the ancient civilization of Harappa and Mohanjodaro. Who can forget the image of "Dancing Girl" of this civilization that still rules the ancient art as an icon. Leh, is exactly the countryside, which allowed the waters of the River Indus to create a glorious tale in the plains.
The undulating mountains breathe fire into your senses and release it from the hold of routine. Houses are hung in the hills like windows of the majestic mountain wall. A palace rules the landscape by virtue of its superior location and sheer force of its lines. The habitation runs towards the valley and merges with the rounded stones of the yore. Life is delicately housed in the ruthless weather. The rich costumes and elaborate musical instruments, the tempestuous drumbeat during the Laddakh Festival are all but attempts to pronounce the everlasting truth that "life is here to stay". Beautiful people, in a beautiful environment and a harsh circumstance.
Come down to the valley of Srinagar and face the great gardens of Shalimar, Nishat and Chashme- Shahi. If ever gardens were bestowed with more than human sensuousness, a soft transcending beauty that could be subtle at one, verbose at another, and pronounced at yet another time, a largely appealing demeanour, that can charm and hold one transfixed, an illusive quality that would mirage like blear all perception beyond, it was here and only here. Imagery is brought to fulsome life, by the stately chinars, ascendind terraces, cascading waterfalls, blooming fountains and effervescing fragrance oft dainty stalks. Then there is a vast expanse of the Dal Lake, which reveals in all its moods imposed by the changing seasons. The far boundaries are lined with houseboats, each with a distinctive name and quality. On one of them you can live and experience in amusementthe surge of sublime human emotions. When flowers bloom, the lakeside by the gardens is crowded withflower-laden boats. Long trusses of flowers, their reflections colouring the Dal Lake, scent invigorating the atmosphere, are treat to the famished eyes. Kashmiri girls, clad in brightly embroidered phirans (overalls), cheeks flushed by the cold breeze, silver bangles jingling as they move the oars, smile as purely as does the mountain air, when they approach a traveller to offer a bunch of flowers. There was a time when Kings and Queens favoured the gardens and sometimes came to dwell in their pavilions for few days.
Gone are those hay-days of royal patronage but the green gardens and the blue lake are still there to weave magic before your eyes.
To contrast is the colour of the desert. Miles of golden sand dunes suddenly give away to an oasis of lakes, trees and habitation. The hills are coarse and rugged in Rajasthan. There is a visible romancing life spirit in inhospitable terrain. The Rajputs built their forts wrapping the hill. They excelled in strategic planning and built gigantic bastions mounted by menacing canons, innumerable chhataris, tweeny-weeny jharokhas, thin staircases and winding pathways to the fort, each u-turn guarded by a gateway. The fort walls were huge in proportion and formidable in defence. Usually a moat ran round the fort prevent attackers from approaching the walls. But, they delicately ornamented the interiors, displaying a superior artistic sensibility. The Sheesh Mahals (mirror palaces) were the ultimate in imagination and conceptualization. Convex mirrors, small and thousands in number, were fixed on the walls to create these dreamy sleeping chambers. Light up a candle and thousands will glow in tiny mirrors. What a sight? What a celebration of beauty? Watching one such desert fort Rudyard Kipling exclaimed in excitement- "a work of angels, fairies and giants".
Such are the sights of India. Such is the colour of life, carried as if in a palanquin, by each sight for your eyes.