Travelling in India is like a roller-coaster ride, thrilling and unforgettable. India has something to offer to every traveller: scenic beauty, beaches, mountains, fauna, adventure sports, luxury hotels, historical monuments, a cultural treat for all the senses… The experience will leave you a little exhausted; because in every moment, there’s so much to live. If you think you’ve seen everything there is to see, you couldn’t be more wrong. India isn’t called Incredible India for nothing. This wonderful land is riddled with more mysteries and astonishing things than Alice or Dorothy could ever have imagined. Sometimes uncanny and sometimes uplifting, India is full of surprises. Every corner of this wonderland has something waiting to be unraveled, just like these:
World’s Widest Banyan Tree – Botanical Garden, Howrah
Near Kolkata, at the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Botanical Garden, Howrah, lies another living proof nature’s powerful glory. The 1250 year old Great Banyan Tree, with a canopy covering an area of 4 acres, is considered the widest tree in the world. After being struck by lightning, the tree was diseased. The trunk had to be removed in 1925. It continues to live without its main trunk, and has 3300 aerial roots reaching down to the ground. What appears to be a forest is actually one single tree. In his mind’s eye, I’m sure this what Frost saw when he said, ‘Lovely, dark and deep…’
Living Roots Bridge – Cherrapunji, Meghalaya
In Cherrapunji, Meghalaya, man has befriended nature and cajoled it into bending to his ways. People build bridges, but the Khasis of Meghalaya, they grow bridges. Ficus Elastica or the Rubber Tree produces strong secondary roots from their trunks. These have been trained to grow in a particular direction using betel-nut trunks, forming sturdy, living bridges over decades. Some of these bridges are more than a hundred feet long. The Umshiang Double Decker Bridge is truly one of a kind in the entire world. Some ancient root bridges are over 500 years old.
World’s Highest Tea Estate – Kolukkumalai, Tamil Nadu
Kolukkumalai Tea Estate is an hour and half long drive from Munnar. Towering at a height of 8000 feet above sea level, this tea estate rises above the plains of Tamil Nadu, heralded by beautiful rugged mountains on all sides. It’s hard to decide which is more breath-taking: the scenic landscape or the flavourful teas produced here.
Natural Mummy of Sangha Tenzing – Gue Village, Spiti
If you thought mummies were to be found only in Egypt, you are mistaken. In a little village called Gue, in Himachal’s Spiti district, lays the remarkably well-preserved 500 year-oldmummy of Sangha Tenzing, a Buddhist monk from Tibet. It was found in a sitting position, with skin and hair intact. This is probably because, the monk started mummifying himself while he was still alive. Natural mummification, as compared to chemical enbalming, is a complex procedure and is extremely rare. The mummy was discovered after an earthquake in 1975. It is now on display at a temple in Gue.
Hanging Pillar – Lepakshi, Andhra Pradesh
The small historical village of Lepakshi is home to many ancient relics and architectural marvels. One of them is the Hanging Pillar of the Lepakshi temple. Amongst the 70 pillars of the temple, one hangs without any support! Visitors pass objects under the pillar to check if the claim is true. According to locals, passing objects under the pillar brings prosperity to one’s life.
India’s Highest and Most Tragic Waterfall- Nohkalikai Falls, Meghalaya
At a height of 1115 feet, the Nohkalikai Falls near Cherrapunji is India’s highest plunge waterfall. Fed naturally by rainwater, this waterfall is named after the tragic tale of a woman called Ka Likai. After the death of her husband, Ka Likai remarried. But her new husband was extremely jealous of her love for her daughter. He murderd the daughter, and to hide the evidence, cooked up her remains into a meal. Kali Kai searched high and low for her daughter but cannot find her. Her husband offers her the meal, as she is exhausted. After eating, she discovers to her horror, the daughter’s fingers lying in basket filled with betel-nuts. Grieved and anguished, she throws herself off the cliff, giving the waterfall its name, ‘Nohkalikai‘ meaning ‘Fall of Ka Likai.’
Land of Snakes – Shetpal, Maharashtra
Shetpal village in Sholapur district of Maharashtra, is known for snake worship. This village has a custom that can be only described as frightful. Each house in this village has a resting place for Cobras in the rafters of their ceilings. No cases of snake bites have been reported in this village despite snakes moving about freely in every household.
Village Without Doors – Shani Shignapur, Maharashtra
Located 35 kms from Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, Shani Shinagpur village is known for its popular Shani temple. This village has never witnessed any crime, and that is attributed to the blessings of Shani Dev. The villagers have full faith in their god, and have completely entrusted their safety into his hands. That is why homes and commercial buildings in this village has no doors, or even a door frame. Taking note of the near-zero crime rate, the UCO Bank has also opened a ‘lock-less’ branch in this village, the first of its kind in India.
Asia’s Cleanest Village – Mawlynnong, Meghalaya
Mawlynnong Village in Cherrapunji is popularly called ‘God’s Own Garden.’ It has won international accolades for being Asia’s Cleanest Village. It is a community-based effort for promoting eco-tourism. It is interesting to note that this village has a 100% literacy rate and most villagers speak English fluently. Mawlynnong boasts of other amazing sights like waterfalls, Living Roots Bridge and a Balancing Rock.
Home to the notorious Cream – Malana, Himachal Pradesh
Located in the north-east of the Kullu Valley, Malana is also known as the ‘Little Greece of India’, because the locals believe that they are descendants of Alexander-the-Great himself! This ancient village is cut off from the rest of the world, and they follow an indigenous political system. There are only about a hundred houses in this village, but it is home to Malana Cream, the finest quality and most potent charas ever produced