Rashtrapathi Nilayam- The President’s Retreat

Rashtrapathi Nilayam, in Bolarum, is one place to visit for a nice, long, refreshing walk under the canopy provided by trees;

Tree-lined paths
Tree-lined paths

to let the kids frolic on the manicured lawns while you relax, with a book, maybe, especially on a weekday when it isn’t too crowded;

Playing tag on the lawn
Playing tag on the lawn

to enjoy an afternoon nap;

Nice place to relax
Nice place to relax

to whisper sweet nothings to a loved one in a garden surrounded by Daisies, Marigolds, Bougainvillea and other colorful flowers;

Rashtrapathi Nilayam Facade
Rashtrapathi Nilayam Facade

apart from getting a peek into the place which hosts the President of India at least once a year and other visiting dignitaries to our state. It is fun to look at the rooms where the President dines, sleeps and receives guests.

A peek inside
A peek inside the building

or even to have gorgeous pictures clicked. Cameras are, surprisingly and much to my delight, allowed inside!

The building is beautifully furnished (as viewed from the windows; the general public isn’t allowed inside the building) but not too extravagant. It is single-storied, white-washed and idyllic. All emphasis seems to have been placed on the surrounding area than on the building itself. There are Herbal and Fruit Gardens, Tree-lined avenues, pristine lawns, a temple, fountain and potted plants everywhere. Light music emanating from the speakers provides the perfect background score as you stroll around.

Don’t forget to carry snacks to enjoy a picnic on one of those lawns. And please, please leave the place just as beautiful as you found it. Rashtrapathi Nilayam is open to the public once a year between the first of January to the tenth. So make haste and head to its Gate 2 to spend some quality time in one of the prettiest, well-maintained parts of our state.

Let's just stay here, Please!
Let’s just stay here, Please!

(Entry is free. Timings : 10 am to 5 pm. Open on weekdays and weekends until the 10th of January)

Love,

Manasa.

Shilparamam

Now is the best time to visit my place, the state of Telangana, when the temperatures drop low at night and stay pleasantly cool through the day. There’s so much to see and do here- historical sites like the Golconda Fort and parks like the KBR National Park. But there’s one place I can’t highly recommend enough- Shilparamam, “an arts, crafts and cultural village” at Hi-Tech City, Madhapur.

Set like a village
Set like a village

Shilparamam has a rural set-up and the shops within its campus remind a visitor of a Village Fair. It costs 40 Rupees to enter ( about 0.6 USD and 20 Rupees for children. Entrance is Free for kids under 4). A couple of huge Terracotta Horses stand guard at its entrance, making it hard to miss.

At the entrance
Terracotta Sentinel

Even though it is located in one of the busiest parts of the state, the complex itself is free of vehicles, which makes shopping such a breeze. I let the kids run about, with supervision of course, as we were there in the afternoon and it wasn’t too crowded.

Shilparamam opens at 10:30 in the morning itself.

The shops are vibrant, stocked with handwoven clothes, paintings, sculptures, pots, pans, jewelry and other tchotchkes. It’s hard to decide what to buy and what to skip. Prices range from affordable to exorbitant and most shop-owners are willing to bargain. Many of the stuff you buy support NGOs take better care of those in need of help. So, instead of the usual Buyer’s remorse, you end up feeling generous after a bout of shopping. (I can imagine Prasad rolling his eyes at this!)

At another stall

A beautiful Display
A beautiful Display

It’s not just a shopping complex, but holds much more than that. Everyone, young or old, can hang out an entire day and not run out of things to do. It’s probably not a great place to dine, as there aren’t many options to pick from. (There are good restaurants in the vicinity with better food).

Pencil Shading
Pencil Shading by a local artist

The Village Museum is built like one of the many villages one can find in the South. Life-like models going about their everyday activities like selling wares at a market, performing rituals, sculpting etc. displayed in the museum will stun you for sure. The puppet show run by an old couple is always a hit with the kids and adults alike.

Life-like models on display

That's me!
Yours Truly! 🙂

Wait wait… there’s more- A rock Gallery, Sculpture Park and other attractions which I missed because we ran out of time!

Last but not the least, there’s Music and Dance too. An open-air theater showcases performances by musicians and dancers from different parts of India. And local performers entertain the shoppers along store-lined streets, singing some foot-tapping folk songs.

Music and Dance

A total package for the whole family, everyone ends up having a gala time! Not only can you do all your souvenir shopping right here, you will also leave with a flavor of Rural India.

(The only drawback is navigating to and from this place through dense traffic! Uff!)

Ramakrishna Math

This showed up as one of the top places to visit in and around Hyderabad on TripAdvisor as I looked around for things to do with my sister, when she visited us from Switzerland.  I used to go to the Ramakrishna Math in Bangalore with my friends after classes as it was pretty close to my college. It was right beside a bustling bus-stop, but I remember it being so serene, I’d forget I was in the heart of the city and not in a remote village.

I was curious to check this one out. The Math is in Lower Tank Bund area, which isn’t too far from my place.  As soon as I entered the premises, I took my camera out (as usual), but I couldn’t capture more than a single picture.

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A security guard came running towards me asking me to put my camera inside. I felt angry and sad that I couldn’t capture the beauty of the building or the serenity of the manicured lawns or the wise sayings by Swami Vivekananda displayed all around the campus. I seriously can’t fathom why photography is prohibited anywhere close to a temple; Not allowing it within the temple is understandable, as some people might start taking selfies with the “Gods”, which is kind of tasteless. But why not outside? A few well-taken pictures that show a glimpse of the temple might attract more visitors to it, or is it to ward off unwanted attention? I know not.

After meandering through the serene campus, we entered the main meditation/prayer hall. It felt warm and cozy inside. There was a well-lit, life-like idol of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa at the head of the hall. I thought I could gaze at it for hours, examining my thoughts and life, as I did so.

But I couldn’t, thanks to a couple of rambunctious kids, who were too excited to allow their mommy to remain seated and meditate. So, we slipped out. But there was more to explore.

First, we entered the Swami Vivekananda Institute of Languages to know what languages were being taught at the moment. We were told that Sanskrit, Hindi, German, French, Spanish, Japanese apart from English classes were being offered there at reasonable prices. Learning French has been in my wishlist for quite sometime now. Let’s see… I might join a class.

Then we checked the bookstore, which is moderate in size and holds a good collection of books on Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, his wife, Sharada Devi and his disciple, the well-known Swami Vivekananda. My sister and I bought a few biographies of Swami Vivekananda, stories of renowned Indians for Medha and posters of Swami Vivekananda before heading out.

Exiting the Math to join the throng of other vehicles, their blaring horns, as we drove back home felt like being shaken awake from a beautiful dream.

 

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