Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Visit to Cholamandalam Artists' Village in ECR Chennai

For art lovers there is a permanent art exhibition in Cholamandalam Artists Village in Chennai. You can even meet the renowned artists living there.
I was always longing to visit this place for a long time and the opportunity came to me in 7th June 2009.
This co-operative artists colony started in 1965 as a joint effort of more than 30 painters and sculptors. The creative work is is happening there in an ongoing basis and all the paintings by different artists ranging from classical to moder art are displayed for viewing and for sale also. This is the first of its kind in the world where a colony of artists are formed in an excellent ambiance on the shores of Bengal sea.
How did I reach there?Address, Phone number and e-mail details:
This village is situated in ECR (East Coast Road) on the way to Muttukaadu, Mahabalipuram, very much nearer to the city and after Thiruvanmiyur. I went through car on my way to Pondichery.
Cholamandal Artist's Village
Injambakkam, Chennai 600041 India
Phone: 00-91-44-24490092, 24494053
What is worth seeing there:
I spent more than half a day and felt it is not sufficient to view all the excellent creations of the great artists like Panicker. There are two gallery halls - one in the ground floor and first floor and the other one a small building with AC facilities adjacent to the main gallery. You can spend a lot of time enjoying all types of arts exhibited there. After completing your fascinating journey through the gallery you can come out and view the sculptures of different shapes and themes. You can also walk along the road and see the houses of artists ( even they are built and decorated with great sense of art!)
Note: You are not allowed to take digital camera or video camera inside the exhibition hall.
I am planning to visit again and spend a whole day looking at the paintings and meeting the artists when they are working live of their creations. I also have a dream that at least one of my paintings should hang in the gallery in my life time.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Visit to Swaminarayan Akshardham Delhi - exciting and enjoyable

When I planned a trip to Delhi, one of my relatives insisted (yes, he was very particular or rather forced me) me to visit Akshardham without fail. After visiting only I came to know why he was so particular about this and thanked him a lot for this when I came back after this visit. It was so amazing, exiting and an enjoyable experience.

How did I reach there?
In New Delhi, we stayed in Ginger Hotel ( near Ajmere gate of New Delhi railway station - very good hotel priced reasonably- I will write an exclusive post about this later) and took a taxi to this place (Rs.250 for non AC and 350 for AC taxi) and reached within 20 minutes. While coming we came by auto at the cost of Rs.120/= . This complex is situated in East Delhi and not far away from the city. (Tel: 011 2201 6688, 2202 6688)

How much time one need to spend there?
It took 6 hours for us to spend time there and we enjoyed the whole ambiance in a leisurely manner. We started by 10:30 morning and came back by 4:30 evening. But, unfortunately we missed the musical fountain in the evening as we had to catch the train to Chennai the same night. It is suggested that you allot one full day so that you can enjoy the garden visit, exhibitions and monument visit and musical fountain in the evening and night.

What is Akshardham?
It is a cultural complex and an abode of Bhagwan swaminathan on the banks of Yamuna river opened in 2005 after spending 300 million man hours. The stones were sculptured at different parts of India as a parallel process and later on assembled at New Delhi; otherwise it would have taken 50 years! An example of efficient project management technique!

Entrance gates:
Apart from the main gate that we enter after security check, there are aesthetically designed ten gates inside the complex representing the freedom of thoughts and leading the visitors to the amazing world of temples, gardens and entertainments and exhibitions.
Bhakthi Dwar is the gate of Devotion that exhibits the traditional sculptures as a symbol of devotion; Mayur Dwar is enriched with lot of peacock sculptures.

The main Akshardham Monument:
The monument of Swaminarayan Akshardham is a magnificent structure at the centre of the complex surrounded by holy water called Narayan sarovar. The bottom of the monument's exterior wall is carrying lot of images of Gajendra (elephants) in different forms and the top is decorated by traditional domes and flag at the top. The 148 stone elephants in different shapes and styles called 'Gajendra Peeth' are really worth watching.
Since maintenance work was going on during our visit (last week of June 09) we could not get opportunity to visit inside the temple, where a prayer hall and the idols of God are housed. The maintenance work is expected to be completed after 2 more months.

The exhibitions are the most entertaining part of the whole journey inside the complex. The three types of exhibitions are far above the world standards and one has to really experience this to feel its worth. They are performed inside a well managed AC halls with artificially developed ambiances like blue sky, night sky, huge artificial real - life size tress and huts. ( Since visited the temple on the hottest day of summer, the AC halls with huge entertainment items were like heaven to us!) I recommend you strongly that you should not miss this when you go inside. The timings are so convenient that you can join the show in a gap of ten minutes and keep going on until you finish all the three. In between the three shows, you may visit the small refreshment stall to quench your thirst. But you are not allowed to carry anything, even water inside the auditorium. The water bottles would be collected at the gate, numbered and given back to you when you come out.
1. Hall of values -the human values like ahimsa and courage narrated by robotic animated images
2. Neelkanta Yatra - a huge size , giant screen award winning film about the 11 year old child yogi's travel across India
3. Educational boat ride that takes us along an artificial river surrounded by sculptures, dolls etc with lighting and sound effects depicting 10000 years Indian culture and history
Cultural garden:
A walk in the lush green largest garden with statues of historic heroes and freedom fighters is so enjoyable.
Food for your stomach also:
You can relax and enjoy good snacks - crisp dosas and soft idlies of South Indian or Gujarathi kitchdies or hot puris at Premvati Restaurant inside the complex near the Lotus shaped arena after crossing the exhibition halls.
Security Information:
Please note that for we not allowed take cell phone, camera, video camera or any other electronic items or big bags inside the complex. They have to deposited in the cloak room. Visitors have to pass through strict security check . However we can get professionally photographed inside the complex, by the authorised photographers arranged by the temple authorities.

The complex is closed on Mondays.
Timings on other days: Opening 9:00 AM Entry closing time 7:00 Pm (April to September) 6:00 PM (October to march)
There is a musical fountain show in the evening 7:30 Pm (April to September) and 6:45 Pm (October to march)
A matter for wallet:
The entry to Akshardham is free.
The cost for the three exhibitions - Rs.125 for adults, 75 for senior citizens and free for children below 4 years

Information and the photo courtesy - A Book published by Akshardham authorities at the cost of Rs.50/= available inside the complex.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Visit to Taj of Agra and Mathura - Panicker Travels Delhi

I have visited Agra and Mathura during the last week. I took the AC Volvo bus from Panickers Travel of Delhi. The bus was pretty decent and the service was also very prompt. The bus arrived to my pick up point near Scindia House (escorts Office corner ) of Delhi exactly by 6:00 AM as scheduled. They provided good water and cool drinks as a refreshment. The AC in the bus was OK and bus stopped at a decent hotel for breakfast. I was watching the road traffic and the scenarios of fast moving tall trees, trucks and autos packed with people. The sun was s harsh and people were covering their head and nose with clothes.

Before visiting Taj, we went to the Agra Fort. The guide explained the history of the fort, the king's palace, court and the swimming pool used by the ladies. The glimpses of Taj at a far distance could be seen from this fort. The sun was so harsh that we were always thinking of going back to the bus, rather than listening to the details narrated by the guide.

We were taken to the official UP government's handicraft emporium. The salesman explained the way how the paintings were done in the marble pieces by studding precious stones. Three workers were doing the art and a practical demo was seen. Taj miniature made of real marble stone was demonstrated by passing a light through it. It was informed and proved by him that in fake marbles light will not enter. We went to a nearby hotel called Amar. This is a decent hotel and we enjoyed the curd rice and the brown dal very well.

While travelling towards Agra, we saw many small depleted houses, debris, dust and un-clean remaining of the river. It is sad to note that the approach to the world's wonder was not kept clean by the local authorities.

Panicker took us to South gate of Taj instead of entering through the 13th gate which is very much nearer to the parking place. We were told that South gate was near the cloak room and easier to retrieve any items recovered from us like knife etc. But it was painful to walk a long way in the scorching sun towards the south gate . After entering the gate, the first sight of Taj through the gate was astonishing. We were told that it took 22 years to build this magnificent marble building as the work took place only during the light and not in the night. We could imagine the logistic issues faced those days when the transportation facilities were very less.

The photographers and the souvenir vendors nag you as you enter the Taj. The sales trick is that a free photo from your camera would be taken first and then they will press you for a professional (?) photo from their camera. I tried with one of the photographers suggested by Panicker for a single photo. He took two snaps of us at the same place. I thought he took the snaps twice, to make sure that the photo should come properly . But when we came out we were given both the photos ( one horizontal and one vertical) and were charged for both (Rs.60/- for each). There were more crowd and lot of demand for taking photos by sitting on the marble bench before the Taj. But one has to take care of his seat (?) while posing in the harsh son and the heated bench!

We had to remove shoes and run to reach the Taj Mahal's entrance. This was a horrifying exercise in the noon when the sun was at 46 degrees. It reminded me of the festival in our Tamil nadu Village where the devotees had to run over the fire pieces to prove their divinity (Thee midhi thiruvizha) ! Some people returned back not venturing the walk with bare foot.
However, as an Indian, it was a proud moment for us that we were at last at the great mahal which is a symbol of love.