Chinese Fishing Nets, or Cheena vala as they are locally called, is one of the main tourist attractions of Kochi in Kerala. These cantilevered nets line the sea-front in Kochi harbor, on frames made of teak and bamboo. The lowering of the nets and the catch being brought in are best viewed either from the north end of the Vasco-da-Gama Square, a narrow promenade that runs along the beach, or from a boat tour of the harbor. These are believed to have been brought here by the first foreign visitors to the Malabar coast, the late 14th century traders from the Chinese ruler Kublai Khan’s court. These nets are now a vanishing legacy because of their huge operational and maintenance costs; and only less than a dozen of these are in use now.
Tawang Monastery is the second largest monastery in Asia, overlooking the Tawang chu valley in the Tawang District of Arunachal Pradesh. It is located on top of a hill at an altitude of about 10,000 feet. This 350 year old monastery is the source of spiritual enlightenment for the followers of the Gelupa Sect of the Mahayana School Sherdukpen and Monpa tribes of Tawang and West Kameng districts.
Like the Great Wall of China, India too has a wall running up and down the Aravali hills in Rajasthan. Built by medieval Rajput ruler Rana Kumbha, to protect his kingdom from invaders, the wall has 34 fortresses in it.
Several South Indian temples have musical stone pillars. The central parts of such pillars are chiseled into 7 to 16 bars which produce distinct notes similar to that of a xylophone, if tapped with a wooden mallet. What is significant is that the different bars are part of the same pillar.
The Hindola Mahal or the swinging palace in Mandu in central India has an unusual design. From outside it looks like a sturdy fort with peculiar sloping sidewalls creating an illusion that the entire structure is swaying. Incidentally, Mandu was the biggest fortified city of the medieval world.
Mathura, about 130 kilometres from Delhi, has the distinction of having produced the first carved images of Buddha about 2,000 years ago. Till then, Buddha was never represented in human forms.
The Jantar Mantar at Delhi has two pillars about 12 feet in height and 17 feet apart that determine the shortest and the longest days of the year. On December 21, the shortest day of the year, the southern pillar casts a shadow on the northern pillar, covering it entirely – starting from the base upwards. On June 21, the longest day of the year, no shadow falls on the northern pillar.
At the Karnidevi temple near Bikaner in Rajasthan, rats are worshipped as the deity’s descendents. In fact, rats are not referred to as rats but as kabas, which in the local Marwari language means children.
The Indian Wild Ass, called Khur, found only in the salt desert of Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, runs faster than the horse. In fact, a relay of horse is needed to tire it out before it can be caught.
In the largest natural cave in the Himalayas, at the height of 12,729 feet, a shivlinga is formed of pure ice between July and August. How it happens – whether from the water dripping from the roof or by way of the frozen spring running underneath – is not known. But the linga is said to wax and wane with the phases of the moon. Despite an arduous journey, lakhs of devotees throng to this cave for a holy darshan.
A stepwell at Adalaj near Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat, resembles a subterranean temple. It descends five floors underground with each having a pillared pavilion and a profusely carved gallery.
Near the famous Shiva temple of Somnath, which stands at the seashore in Gujarat, is a pillar facing the Arabian Sea. This pillar is constructed on such a spot that no land comes between the pillar and the South Pole.
In the tower of the famous Se Cathedral in Goa, there is a bell that can be heard 14 kilometres away in Panjim and yet when one stands next to the bell its soft melodious tones fall lightly on the ear.
The Chaumukha (four-faced) shrine dedicated to
Adinath, the first Jain Tirthankar, at Ranakpur in Rajasthan consists of 84 halls with 1,444 exquisitely carved pillars of which no two pillars are exactly same. The pillars are so placed that the view of the deity is not obstructed from any point.
Bhavnagar in Gujarat is the only railway station in India where women work as porters.
Adolf Hitler’s gift of a powerful telescope to a king of Nepal is now at Darjeeling’s Himalayan Mountaineering Institute.
Although there are 16 different tribes living in Nagaland, to most of us, they are simply known as Nagas. Their distinctive shawls differentiate one tribe from another, similar to the tartans worn by Scots.
The 4,000-feet-long corridor of the Rameshwaram temple in the southern state of Tamil Nadu that has 985 richly carved pillars standing on both sides, presents a breathtaking perspective. The corridor, though the longest in the world, is not dark as light filters into it through occasional openings in the roof.
The acoustics of the Golconda Fort near Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh are unique because a handclap at the entrance of the fort can be clearly heard at the top-most pavilion, 400 feet above.
The 6th Nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Mahbub Ali Khan, popularly known as Mahbub Ali Pasha, never wore the same clothes twice. His dressing room had the longest wardrobe in the world – a 240 feet long corridor like chamber lined with cupboards on both the sides.
Acupuncture originated in India about 3,000 years ago, but it was perfected in China. On the other hand, Homeopathy though originating in Germany in the early 19th century has 10 lakh practitioners in India today – more than anywhere else in the world.
The Kailash temple at Ellora near Aurangabad in Maharashtra is carved out of a single hill. It was excavated without any mechanical aid by digging at 30 metre deep three-side trench from above, leaving the block of rock for the temple. Time and labour apparently did not count as obstacles, for it is said that about 20,000 tonnes of rock was chiseled out.
The sacred fire that the Parsi community had brought with them from Iran more than 1,200 years ago burns at Udwada in Gujarat.
Majuli on the river Brahmaputra in Assam is the largest river island of the world. Although the turbulent river threatens to wash it away every year, nevertheless people continue to live there despite the prospect of such calamity occurring.
Abade Faria, a Goan priest who discovered the art of hypnotism, is immortalized in the well-known classic of Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo. The statue of this illustrious Goan stands in Panjim.
The Indian Railways often runs special trains to meet peculiar requirements. The Fish Therapy Special is one such train that runs annually from Guwahati in the northeast to Hyderabad in the south for the benefit of asthma patients. The train is so named because at Hyderabad, as a medicine, the patient is made to swallow a live, medicated Murral fish. The railways even provide a special diet on-board to patients on their return journey.
India leads the world in the varieties of mango, which exceed 1000! These verities are named after royalty, colour, flavour, taste, shape, precious stones, place and so on.
Arjuna’s penance, sculpted on a bas-relief in Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu, is the world’s biggest bas-relief.
Tiruchirapalli rock fort is the world’s oldest rock fort.
Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh has the world’s earliest known prehistoric cave paintings.
Sundarbans, created by Ganga and Brahmaputra in West Bengal in India and Bangladesh, is the largest delta of the world.
The Qutab Minar in Delhi is the world’s tallest free-standing minar.
The New Subzi Mandi, a wholesale market at Azadpur in Delhi, is Asia’s largest fruit and vegetables market. Nearly 3,000 trucks bring fruits and vegetables here daily for over 30,000 retail vendors.
Nagpur, a prominent city in Maharashtra, boasts of Asia’s biggest wood market.
Dholavira in Gujarat has the world’s oldest dam, dating back to the Indus Valley Civilization.
Indian Railways employ over 1.5 million people, the largest by a single organization in India or anywhere else in the world.