Mawsynram – Wettest Inhabited Place on Earth

The monsoon is the most awaited season in the Indian subcontinent. It brings respite from the scorching heat of summers. This is however not a very welcome thing in Mawsynram. You may wonder why Mawsyram is not happy with the rains. Basically Mawsyram is the rainiest place on earth and receives up to 1140 cm rainfall per year. The rain in this place is mostly in the monsoon which is highly extended. The rain in this village is so intense that people have to use a shield made of thick grass so that the sound of falling rain can be muted.

Mawsynram – Wettest Inhabited Place of the World

This area has snatched the crown of the rainiest place on earth from Cherrapunji as Cherrapunji receives rainfall only slightly less than Mawsynram. The location of Mawsynram is the only factor that affects the amount of rainfall in this village. During monsoon the gathering of clouds occurs over Bay of Bengal and leads to high precipitation over this area which is situated 1400 meter above the sea level.

Mawsynram Village
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This village has beautiful grass lands and amazing fountains that make the land picturesque. But, this land is mainly famous for its megaliths. Even its name has the word “maw” which means stones. This village is famous for the Shivlinga that is formed due to the deposition of the stalagmite.

Approach to this village is by road ad only the four wheelers especially the SUVs can tread the roads that lead to this village due to the ruggedness they offer.

Mawsynram, Meghalaya
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The wet season in Mawsynram is so intense and extended that people here start preparing for the season from a very long time. They buy a lot of food grains and stock them in their houses. This is so because it is not possible to go out of houses during the rainy season which are the months of May and July. The women also have the work of making Knups. These are the umbrella kind of things that protect the body from rain and extend till the knee. They are worn over the head and are made of bamboo sliver, plastic sheets and a grass that is used to make brooms in India.

During the monsoon all the people spend their time making bamboo baskets, broom and knups to sell in the market. Bamboo and broom grass are the major type of vegetation that grow on this land. These people also have “siat khnam” as a means to spend their time. This is basically a kind of gambling but is done by archery. The bamboo shoots are given as targets and the hits and misses decide who wins the bet. Also people love angling in the ponds that are found around the village.

Mawsynram - Wettest Place on Earth
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This village receives so much rain that the rivers here assume a very aggressive nature during this season and it becomes impossible for the people to cross them. But Mother Nature has sorted this problem by the living bridge that is formed by the roots of the rubber tree. This bridge takes a two years time before it is strong enough to be used as bridge to cross over the turbulent rivers.

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India’s First Floating Post Office on Dal Lake, Srinagar

Owing to its population of whooping 1.25 billion has led India to become the largest in many scenarios including postal services. India has the largest postal service network in the world and has the largest number of post offices in the entire world. But when it comes to doing something innovative postal department is the last thing that comes to one’s mind. This time, however, the department is in the news because of the innovative and pleasantly unique way of giving services to the people.

The Only Floating Post Office of India on Dal Lake, Srinagar

Many would know Srinagar, the beautiful city which is also the capital of Kashmir for many scenic destinations such as Mughal Gardens, Chashma Shahi, Nishat Bagh etc. but very few would be aware of the floating post office in Srinagar. Yes, this is a post office that floats on water!

Floating Post Office, Dal Lake, Srinagar
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The presence of house boat in the Dal Lake is a well known fact by all. But, what is not known that one of these house boats has a post office. The post office is housed in one of the largest houseboats in Dal Lake and is only one of its kinds in the world. This beautiful post office floating on the turquoise waters of the famous Dal is a magnificent thing to be witnessed by your eyes.

This post office is a heritage post office and it is said to have existed since the British times. After independence it was called as Nehru Park post until 2011 when its name was changed by John Samuel who was the chief Post Master in those times.

Floating Post Office Night View, Srinagar
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This new post office with museum was formally re-inaugurated by Omar Abdullah who was the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir at that time. This inauguration was also done by Sachin Pilot who was the Union Minister for State for Communication and IT.

This post office is a great way for the tourists to send the news of their well being to their family members. Many of them row to the floating house boat to send post cards all around the world. The main attraction of sending the post card from here is that your mail goes with a special a special design that bears the beauty of the Dal Lake as well as Srinagar.

Floating Post Office, Dal Lake
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This Post Office, though is tourist friendly and is a great way of keeping in touch with their loved ones but this is not it. This post office that remains a great attraction for the tourists is the main center for the locals that they use to deposit their money in here. They use it to complete their normal work related to post office. In 2014, the floods that hit Srinagar had also posed grave dangers to the post office that had to be rescued by the rescue forces. At that time the house boat was uncontrollably propelled by the storming water and had to be anchored to the highland for keeping it safe from damage.

This is one of the things that no one visiting Srinagar must miss as it not only is a window to the history but is also a heritage that is important for the area.

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Rama Setu – Limestone Shoals connecting India & Sri Lanka

History of India is full of speculations; some believe and some don’t but owing to the unrecorded history of this peninsula many things just cannot be proved. Similar is the case with Ram Setu or what is known to the western world as Adam’s Bridge.

This bridge is located between India and Sri Lanka and extends from the tip of Pamban Island which is known by the name of Dhanushkodi to mannar island of Sri Lanka. There are many claims as to when and how the bridge was made.

Rama Setu – Rama’s Bridge or Nature’s Creation ?

If you go by Hindu beliefs and scriptures this bridge was built by the two Vanara architects of the army of Lord Ram named Neela and Nala. They were blessed with the ability of making anything float on water and they utilized their blessing in making Ram Setu with the help of the 10 million Vanaras in 5 days. In Valmiki Ramayana the procedure of how the bridge was constructed has also been mentioned but there is no mention of Nala and Neel having this ability. However, in Ramcharitmanas of Tulsidas, Nala and Neel have been shown to have the power to make stones float on water.

Rama Setu
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In contrast to this belief the scientists and archeologists claim that this bridge is just a collection of limestone shoals that has been formed due to deposition of sand and salts of various kinds. There is also said to be coral reef that has led to the formation of the bridge.

This 50 km long bridge could be passed on foot from India to Sri Lanka but due to cyclone has got submerged in water. However, this bridge separates the Gulf of Mannar from Palk Straight and makes the area not suitable for navigation. For this reason the route for the ships becomes longer.

Rama Setu (Adam's Bridge) Google Maps
Rama Setu as per Google Maps

According to Archeological Survey of India the age of this bridge has been found to be 125,000 years while the radio carbon dating suggests that this bridge is around 7,000 to 18,000 years old. There are many other studies that suggest conflicting dates for the formation of Ram Setu.

There are many historically important documents that suggest that Setubandhanam is a very ancient structure. The maps that were prepared by the Dutch cartographer in 1747 as well as the map of Mughal India show the presence of the bridge. Even in the travel log of Marco Polo the area has the names like Sethubandha or Sethubandha Rameshwaram.

Rama Setu (Adam's Bridge)
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This bridge has been in controversy recently as it presents a problem in passing of the large ships from the area leading to an increase in time as well as cost of the transport. For this reason it was proposed that the bridge be blasted off for the ease of transport. But owing to the widespread opposition the government did not go further.

Whether this bridge was made by Lord Rama or by the virtue of Nature its importance cannot be denied and bringing it down for any reason is not a justifiable step and it must be conserved for the geological reasons if not for the historical ones.

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Kalavantin Durg – A Beautiful Abandoned Fort in Maharashtra

There are many forts in India that are marvelously built and have been appreciated by many for their architectural abundance but none is built of height as great as that of kalavantin Durg. Durg means the fort. This fort that has been built on a mountain at a height of 2000 feet above sea level is one of the most beautiful forts as well as dangerous ones too. It is said that this fort was built for a queen named Kalavantin but there is nothing more documented about this fort.

Kalavantin Durg – A Beautiful Abandoned Fort 

The other name of this fort by which it is known by is Prabalgad fort and is located between Matheran and Panvel in Maharashtra. This mountain fort is at an exact elevation of 2,300 feet on one of the mountains of the Western Ghats.

Kalavantin Durg Trek
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This fort was known by the name of Muranjan but later the Marathas took it over and renamed it as Prabalgad fort. This fort was rightly renamed as access to this fort is very difficult and in those times when the means of transportation were limited it would have been a herculean task. There are steps that are cut in the rocks of the mountain to reach the fort. The stairs are built at very steep angle making it a difficult task to climb.

This fort must have been abandoned due to the inaccessibility it poses to everybody. However, the tourists generally come to this place and climb these stairs to reach the fort. The climbing is extremely challenging due to no safety measures. There are no rails or ropes for the protection of those who limb. The stairs appear all the scarier while coming down.

Kalavantin Durg
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This fort is believed to be built around the tie when Gautam Buddha was present on this planet around 500 BCE or even before that. Since there is nothing documented about this fort, nothing is conclusive about the history of the fort.

This fort though, has been abandoned and is not used anymore for the purpose it was built for but more often than not the tourists and locals do visit this fort to spend some time there. The tribal people from Machi-Prabal village perform a ritual on the top of this fort by dancing on the day of Shimga- a festival celebrated by these villagers on the day the entire country celebrates Holi. They believe that this fort has been a part of their culture for centuries.

If you want to visit this fort and get the feel of how the hiking here feels like then you can go by Mumbai- Pune Expressway from where it is easily accessible.

Kalavantin Durg top
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This fort is an example of amazing feat the architects of ancient India had achieved. The courage and the efforts that have been put in to make this fort on the top of the mountain are just incredible. But one must also appreciate the courage of Marathas who conquered this fort even though it is so difficult to reach. The land of India is full of such out of the world stories that one cannot but remain amazed.

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Roopkund – The Skeleton Lake of Uttarakhand

As goofy as it may sound but this glacial lake that lies in Uttarakhand has hundreds of skeleton at the base of it. The area where the lake is situated is mostly uninhabited as this is not conducive for human living and lies at an altitude of more than five thousand meters. The lake is surrounded by many glaciers as well as high rise mountains that are always covered with snow. However, the lake is a great site for trekking.

Roopkund – The Mysterious Skeleton Lake

Roopkund lake caught the attention of the whole world when a ranger of Nanda Devi Game Reserve, H K Madhwal discovered human skeletons in the base of the lake when the snow melted. However, this was not the first time that reports of such recovery became public. In the late half of the nineteenth century there were human bones seen at the edge of the lake.

Roopkund Lake
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This lake remains frozen all the year round except in the autumn when the snow melts and the base of the lake becomes visible. It I sat this time that one can see the skeletons, artifacts made of wood, different arms like spearheads, rings and many other things.

Roopkund Skeletons
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Many skeletons that were discovered still had the flesh attached to them. Hundreds of samples taken from the site revealed that the skeletons belonged to somewhere around 900 CE and most of the DNA analysis showed the similarity with the people of Iran. This is astonishing. But this is just one study. Many other studies that were conducted later claimed that some of the DNA matched with the locals while the others matched with those of Konkanastha Brahmins called Chitpavans.

Roopkund Lake, Uttarakhand
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The local legend says that Raja Jasdhawal who was the king of Kannauj along with many had gone on pilgrimage to Nanda Devi but unfortunately had to face a hailstorm which caused their death and this is why there are so many skeletons there.

There is some determination regarding the type of people whose skeletons were present there but the reason why so many people went in such rugged terrain is a mystery in itself. This is no route of business but yes, this is the route on which people go to Nanda Devi Shrine where Nanda Devi Raj Jat festival is organized after every twelve years. May be people got trapped somehow in this place and died due to extreme cold conditions.

Skeletons at Roopkund Lake
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There is a problem of people stealing the skeletons from the lake and taking them along with themselves. For this reason the government is thinking of making this a protected site.

This lake is a very pretty place and many tourists who visit valley of flowers also visit Roopkund Lake. Also this is the important trekking destination as it forms the base of Trisul and Nanda Ghunti mountain peaks. Bedni Bugyal is the annual religious festival in which almost all the villages of the area take part. You can reach Roopkund via Ran ki Dhar or from Mundoli. You can also reach this lake via Kathgodam and Mundoli. Whichever way you choose the beauty of the place will just be mind boggling and you have the experience that is unforgettable.

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Rann of Kutch – The White Desert of Gujarat

Vast white land surface with nothing else on it and which shines like the surface of moon in a moonlit night can be nothing else but Rann of Kutch. The white surface of this portion of Thar Desert is due to the deposits of salt over it.

The word Rann has been derived from Sanskrit meaning the desert while Kutch is the District of Gujarat that is mostly inhabited by the Kutchi people. This place finds mention in Rigveda and Mahabharata. Even Alexander was aware of the white salt desert of India.

Rann of Kutch – Gujarat’s White Desert

Rann of Kutch is basically a salt desert and probably the largest salt desert that becomes marshland during the rainy season of the year. The area gets flooded due to many rivers like Ghaggar, Luni, Rupen and West Banas River draining into this desert. In the Monsoon season the clay laden soil gets drenched in water and since the land is just 15 meters above sea level water does not drain properly leading to standing water and marshy Kutch.

Rann of Kutch
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The climate of this region varies according to the season. In summers the temperatures may soar as high as 49.50 C while in winters the temperature may drop down to 00. For visiting this place winter is the best season.

In winters there is a festival organized by the Government of Gujarat to promote tourism in the region. This festival, known by the name of Rann Utsav, lasts for three months, that is, from December to February. During this time the whole area looks like city of tents. The guests are given accommodation in the luxurious tents and are offered various types of activities during the day. At night there are arranged various cultural programmes for the guests. You can also indulge in shopping during the festival because there are various stalls that are laden with local handicrafts.

Rann of Kutch, Gujarat
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Rann Utsav is a great opportunity for the people who are visiting the place as well as the people who are performing and putting up stalls there. The visitors can have a glimpse of the amazing culture of the kutchi people, enjoy camel ride in the white desert, get a taste of the food of the region and do a lot of activities that are usually not available elsewhere while the people of Kutch get an opportunity to grow economically due to the influx of the tourists.

Rann of Kutch was a great are of conflict since it lies close to the international border which India shares with Pakistan but after the war of 1965 the border dispute in this area has come to an end. The other problem that is of major concern is the draining of polluted water by Pakistan through Sir Creek. This drain is leaking due to floods and is now flooding as well as polluting the water bodies on Indian side.

Rann Utsav
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You can also witness Chir Batti or the ghost lights in the region. This is a dincing light phenomenon and is exclusive to Rann of Kutch, Banni Grasslands as well as the wetlands. This phenomenon is unexplained and occurs on the dark nights. The lights are bright and change colors and are seen only after 8 pm.

Rann of Kutch is a mystery in itself and must visit to unfold this mystery.

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Kolukkumalai – World’s Highest Tea Estate

What could be better than sipping a hot cup of tea amidst the clouds on a hill that boasts of the highest tea plantations in the world? Yes, this is all about Kolukkumalai. Kolukkumalai is a kind of a hamlet that lies in the Theni district of Tamil Nadu. The tea of this plantation has refreshingly unique taste most probably because of high altitude on which the tea is grown.

Kolukkumalai – World’s Highest Organic Tea Plantation

The height of Kolukkumalai is 2,170 meter above sea level. This place can be accessed from Munnar from where it is at a distance of about 32 km. You may find not so very good roads to reach this tea plantation from Munnar but this one and a half hour journey will be worth the time and efforts as you can witness breath taking scenery on the way to Kulukkumalai.

Kolukkumalai Tea Estate
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This village which is situated on the hill top can only be visited by a Jeep as the road is too rough for any other vehicle to tred. Though this hemlet lies in the Theni district of Tamil Nadu, you have to approach from the side of Kerala going through Suryanelli of Idukki district. Many a time the people may get confused about its actual location and may think that this tea plantation lies in Kerala.

The tea making factory here is as if time has frozen here. Not a single piece of modern machines and equipment can be seen in this factory which is originally believed to be established by a Scottish fellow. The machines that belong to the third to fifth decade of the 20th century still have the stamps of those times.

Kolukkumalai Jeep Safari
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Here the handpicked leaves undergo the actual and original process of rolling, cooling, fermenting, drying and packaging for distribution. The organically packed tea is full of aroma and taste as it uses the methods that involved least heat production and are mainly natural.

It is not that people there do not want the new age machinery to increase their production and make their lives easier but it is almost impossible to do that due to the rough terrain of the area. When the present machinery was brought up the mountain it had to be pushed by several men for several days before it could be installed at the factory. Today it is not an option and is also very dangerous to attempt. The roads are not made in a way that they can allow the trucks to ply so the old fashioned machinery remains the only option for tea making in this factory.

Kolukkumalai Tea Estate, Tamil Nadu
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For the factory tour you need to buy a ticket after which you can explore the top floor of the factory all by yourself. Different rooms that are dedicated to different steps of processing are shown to you by a factory worker. The factory is not very big so you will take at the max half an hour to complete the factory tour. After this you can walk around in the tea garden and inhale the aroma of the plantation. You could even try the different teas and have the time of your life in this serene place.

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250 Years Old World’s Widest Banyan Tree at Botanical Garden, Howrah !

The botanical Garden in Howrah that is known by the name of Acharya Jagdish Chandra Bose Botanical Garden has something very unique in it. This is a Banyan tree that is said to be 250 years old.

The uniqueness of this banyan tree lies in the fact that this tree is spread over an area of 4 acres and is the widest tree present.  This banyan tree is also in the Guinness Book of World Records. This tree has an interesting life history.

The 250 Years Old Widest Banyan Tree of the World !

It is said that this more than 250 year old tree has been mentioned in the travel books of many travellers of the 19th century who have described its spectacular beauty and grandeur.

The Great Banyan, Botanical Garden, Howrah
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There are many cyclones that this tree may have seen but surviving the two of the greatest cyclones that came in the year 1864 and 1867 shows the toughness of the tree.  The tree however could not bear the brunt of lightening that struck the main trunk in 1925. This made the main trunk diseased and it could not survive. Therefore the main branch had to be cut in the same year. So, now there are just the subsidiary branches that are standing all on their own without the help of the main trunk.

To show where the main trunk was present there is a monument erected but you cannot reach there as the access of the main trunk area has been closed for the visitors who can just have a look at the periphery of the tree. The crown of the tree at present covers an area of 486 meter and the highest branch of the tree measures 24.5 meter. This huge Ficus Bennghalensis stands on 3772 branches. There was a road of 332 meter constructed around the outer periphery of the tree but its growing branches have set their roots even beyond the road.

World's Wildest Banyan Tree, Botanical Garden, Howrah
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The banyan tree is considered sacred by the Hindus and this is why no one cuts these trees. However this tree has survived a lot to reach this stage. But, many people who are in authority do not understand the importance of this kind of heritage. It is only this tree that has witnessed the history of the city of Howrah. Earlier there was even a turtle that passed away a few years ago in Alipore Zoo.

There have been incidences of the gross negligence by the park authorities as they allowed the shooting of a film near the tree as wells as when there was a marriage party allowed near this great heritage of India. There were postage stamps released in the name of this great banyan tree.

Great Banyan, Howrah
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This tree which was first noticed for its grand size and endurance in the year 1786 has won the hearts of many artists who have sketched it as well as photographed it. The greatest film maker of Japanese films known as Akira Kurosawa made a comparison between this Banyan Tree and contemporary Indian film maker Satyajit Ray. This tree also is the symbol of Botanical Society of India and there has a greater distinction of national level.

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Gomateshwara Statue – The Largest Monolithic Statue in the World

India is a land that has seen the emergence of many religions such as Hinduism. Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism etc. All these religions have contributed to the world and its heritage in their own unique ways and one of those is art. The arts of the most astonishing era are no less astonishing in themselves. It is hard to imagine how the artists managed to create something as astounding as these masterpieces in the era when there was hardly any technology.

Gomateshwara Statue – World’s Largest Monolithic Statue 

One of those astounding art pieces are present in the city named as Shravanbelagola in the Hassan district of Karnataka. Here stands the world’s largest statue of Gommateshvara Bahubali who is known as the first teerthankar of the Jain religion.

Gomateshwara Statue - World's Largest Monolithic Statue
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This statue is 58 feet tall and is carved out of single stone giving rise to the larges monolithic statue of the world. The base of the statue has some inscriptions that are from the tenth century AD. It was due to the efforts of Chavundraya and his king that this statue could be erected.

A festival named as Mahamastakabhisheka is held after every twelve years when the statue is bathed from the top of the head with milk, saffron, turmeric, vermilion and other such offerings that are brought in 1,008 vessels especially made for this occasion.

It is said that BahuBali was born in the family of Ikshvaku in Ayodhya. There were all in all 100 brothers and the eldest was known as Bharat. Being the eldest Bahubali became the king of the major portion of the kingdom. Bahubali was given the city of Bodanapur which is now known as Telangana.

Gomateshwara Statue
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Bharat performed digvijay and after that when he was returning to Ayodhya the chakra ratna refused to enter the city because unless Bharat defeated his 99 brothers he could not be called the chakravartin. His 98 brothers after submitting their kingdoms to Bharat became ascetics but Bahubali did not surrender and decided t fight with his brother. But since they were brothers bloodshed was not allowed and the fought by four other means in which bahubali defeated Bharat. But after the fight Bahubali made his son Somakriti the king and he himself went to become a Digambara Monk.

Digambara means a person who wears clothes made of elements that form all the four quarters of earth. He shunned even his clothes and meditated in one position for one whole year. During this time the climbers grew around and over him. It is in this position that the statue of Bahubali stands. During this meditation Bahubali attained Kevala Gyan.

Gomateshwara Statue
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He was perturbed by the thoughts that he was standing on the land of his brother all the time but after attaining the universal knowledge his mind was full of calmness. Also his brother came to him and worshipped him even though Bharat was the elder brother and this eliminated all the disturbing elements from his mind.

This is not the only monolithic statue of Bahubali but surely it is the largest one. The other statues are in Karkala, Dharmasthala, Venur and Mysore.

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Bibi ka Maqbara – Half-Sized Taj Replica

The replicas of famous buildings are infamous for being a mockery at the original monument but this can never be said about the replica of Taj Mahal. This monument which is known by the name of Bibi ka Maqbara was built in 1678 just after a few years of the construction of Taj Mahal. This building, however, was built in the memory of the mother of Prince Azam Khan between the years 1651 and 1661.

Bibi ka Maqbara – Half-Sized Mini Taj Mahal

This building that is also known by the name of poor man’s Taj Mahal is not an all marble building. Rather, the materials used in this building are more modest such as

  • Limestone
  • Plaster
  • Marble in the onion shaped dome
Bibi ka Maqbara
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In those times the Indian soil was famous for the production of marble and this stone was procured from a place near Jaipur and was carried to the construction site on the bullock carts. Prince Azam Shah had shifted the capital of the Mughal Empire to Aurangabad and this is why he got the monument built in this city.

This ‘Mini Taj’ has all the features of the original Taj Mahal like the

  • The inlaid walls
  • Marble screens
  • Turrets surrounding the tomb
  • A reflecting pool
Bibi ka Maqbara Mini Taj
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There are gardens surrounding the main building which is the tomb of Dilras Banu Begum or Rabia-ud-Daurani. Rabia was the first wife of Emperor Aurangzeb. This prince who loved his mother to the core got the tomb erected following the wishes of his father depicting the love of a son for his mother and got this building made. Aurangzeb was not very fond of monuments or architecture and that is why he has only two main buildings constructed during his reign. One is the Pearl Mosque in Delhi and the second one is Bibi Ka Maqbara in Aurangabad.

The building does not exude the grandeur of the original Taj Mahal but is a great replica that has everything in a miniature form that one can see in Taj Mahal. The building is a great depiction of Mughal architecture and the prevalence of the art forms of those times. Since it is made in the southern part of the country which is also known as Dakkan this monument is also called by some as Dakkani Taj.

Bibi Ka Maqbara Inside
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But there is a striking difference between this monument and Taj Mahal. Where it is said that after the construction of the Taj was completed the hands of the craftsmen and artisans were chopped off so that nothing as grand as that could be made again but here one finds an inscription the building which tells about the names of the architect who was Ata-Ullah and the engineer named Hanspat Rai. Ata-Ullah was the son of the main architect of the Taj. This monument took almost ten years to get constructed and an amount of 6,68,203 rupees and seven annas were spent in its construction.

This was actually designed to rival the Taj but due to such financial constraints imposed by Aurangzeb it became just a small copy of the magnificent Taj.

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