EAT, READ, LOVE
In Rampur, everything from the Raza Library to the shop selling jalebis has aged gracefully
If you watch a certain vintage of Bollywood film, chances are you would have heard of the Rampuri chaaku. Perhaps, you’ve crossed paths with a Rampuri kabab at a culinary pop-up, or you might even be a cynophile given to slavering over the Rampur greyhound.
That said, it is likelier you’re still waiting to discover the delights of this former princely state, lying 200 km east of Delhi, just beyond Moradabad. The state of Rampur was formed in 1774 by Nawab Faizullah Khan, a Rohilla Pathan, under British protection. The Nawab wanted to name the city he was founding Faizabad, after himself. However, since there were many other places known by that name, he had to content himself with Mustafabad. Sadly, for the Nawab, it’s really the name Rampur that has stuck.
The first Nawab left an impressive architectural legacy behind. He built the Rampur Fort and the sprawling Imambara within it, as well as a grand mosque, the Jama Masjid. He was also a great patron of scholarship, and began collecting manuscripts in Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Urdu. These now make up the bulk of the collection at the Rampur Raza Library. Managed by the government, the ‘kitabkhana’ as it is called, lies inside the fort and houses an impressive repository of Indo-Islamic cultural heritage, with more than 12,000 rare manuscripts and a fine collection of Mughal miniatures. Inside the library complex lies the 1905-built Durbar Hall, or Hamid Manzil, which also houses a museum.
Rampur has a few other sights— Gandhi Samadhi, Mumtaz Park and Ambedkar Park among them. While the legendary cuisine of the Nawabs of Rampur, cooked in clay pots, may be a rarity these days—the taar gosht korma (mutton slow-cooked in a rich marrow gravy) is said to be the signature dish of the royal kitchen of Rampur, while unusual desserts like subz meetha and adrak ka halwa inspire more adulation than raised eyebrows—you can still have jalebi from a 150-year-old shop or a metrelong seekh kabab in Rampur. ■
Though the “Jai Badri Vishala (Victory to the Great and Wide Badri)!” chant echoes often in Badrinath, the pilgrims’ fervour reflects, apart from religiosity, a sense of achievement, too.
The shrine is nestled on a ledge between two mountains. At an altitude of 10,200 feet, perched on a rocky slope over the
Alaknanda River, it isn’t the easiest temple to visit.
Besides jeeps and buses, many now also opt for helicopters. The area is often inundated with snow and is sometimes accessible for only six months (May-November). To see the 3.3-ft black stone Badrinarayan idol—Vishnu here is seen meditating, not reclining—go in October to avoid crowds and inclement weather.
Tasked with destruction and preservation, respectively, Shiva and Vishnu often inhabit very different worlds. But several Hindu texts hint at a bonhomie between them. A manifestation of that can be found at Bhubaneshwar’s Lingaraj Temple. Here, the lingam is worshipped as Hari-Hara (while Hari means Vishnu, Hara is one of Shiva’s earliest names). Though constructed during the 11th century, the temple’s building is believed to have started in the sixth century itself.
Also known as ‘Skanda’, Murugan, Shiva’s son, is said to have used his mighty spear to defeat the netherworld’s forces at Tiruchendur. Believed to be one of Murugan’s six abodes, Tiruchendur sits by the Bay of Bengal, and the Subramaniya Swamy Temple itself has been built by its shores. Its 157-ft gopuram is arresting. After bathing in the ocean, pilgrims often cleanse themselves in the Naazhi Kinaru, a sacred well at the south of the temple complex.