Among the oldest civilizations in the world, India is the centre of many spiritual and religious spots. These two hotels in Vrindavan and Tirupati are for the discerning traveller, someone who seeks hygiene and comfort
1. Nidhivan Sarovar Portico, Vrindavan
Home to the blue God Krishna and his spiritual consort, Radha, Vrindavan and Mathura are perhaps the most visited religious places.
Stay: The 68-room hotel is located quite close to the city’s main temples. There is a table for work too in the room. The room service is quick, and I did enjoy the cookies and green tea.
Facilities: This colourful hotel offers sattvik cuisine and has a spa and salon as well. I tried the brightening Kumkumadi facial. There’s gym, complimentary Wi-Fi, and a shop selling handicrafts and books in the lobby area. I even saw a meeting room on the same floor as the spa and salon.
Besides the famous Braj cuisine sans onion and garlic, the Chinese here is quite delicious. The breakfast is normally a buffet with a healthy mix of bread, jam, butter, utthapams, dosas, fresh fruits, poori-bhaji, and more. The special Braj Ki Thali is only available for lunch. This is quite a big meal with three veggies, dal, and kheer.
Explore: Should you like to hire a guide, the hotel has tie-ups. Ashu Sharma, who comes from a generation of priests and takes guests on a guided tour, told me that his group has a site (www.vrindavanguide.com).
Among the most visited is the Banke Bihari temple in the heart of the city. This is where you can hog on kachoris, poori bhajis, the famous pedas, lassis. But do keep a lookout for the monkeys, they love sunglasses and gadgets, besides the food.
Prem Mandir is built of pure Italian marble and the showstopper here is the musical and colourful fountain which is alive only around 7 pm. You might like to go a little further to Barsana to enjoy a spectacular sunrise and sunset on the hill where the temple is located. And you can get your hands and feet decked up with mehndi.
You can even drive down to Bansivat to see the ages-old Banyan tree. It is said that Krishna sat on this tree and played his flute every evening to call the 9, 00, 000 cows that he herded. Perhaps a place where you could go photo crazy is the evening aarti at Kesi Ghat. I went to Yamuna Ghat.
There is a lot more you can see such as Nidhivan, Krishna Janma Bhoomi, and do the parikramas at Govardhan and Vrindavan,
How To Reach: The airport is at Delhi and it takes 3 hours by road to Vrindavan. Alternatively, the nearest railway station is at Mathura, a bare 15 minutes drive.
Drive: Vrindavan is located between Delhi and Agra. You can take the 6-laneYamuna Expressway, the quickest road Delhi via Noida – Greater Noida. After the second toll booth, while coming from Delhi, one needs to take the first left exit from the expressway. Form here, the city is just 12km.
Or you take National Highway 2 or NH 2 via Faridabad.
Tirupati is one of the most important pilgrimage centres in India. Known as the abode of Venkateshvara, the Lord of Seven Hills, the famous temple is nestled among sacred waterfalls and tanks.
This 5-star property redefines pilgrimage travel in India. The hotel has been inspired by the 10 avatars of Vishnu. Well, Tirupati is considered to be a form of Vishnu, the creator of the world. The hotel is a bare 20-minute drive from the international airport.
Stay: Clean lines and open spaces, I got a room that had all the amenities that one could need and an excellent view of the sacred Tirumala hills. A welcome tray with cookies and fruits was the added pleasure. It has 121 rooms. Room service was good, I enjoyed the juice and coffee.
Facilities: The open courtyard has a water body. A walk around the hotel revealed the colours and emotions that each avatar evoked. No two guesses as to what Matsya was—the swimming pool.
Varaha, the competitive one, turned out to be the games room. Narasimha embodied by transition, was the all-day dining of The Lotus Café. Here, breakfast and dinner is a buffet; lunch is a la carte. At the restaurant Krishna, a vegetarian thali ruled.
Vamana, the intellectual dwarf, was represented in the business centre. Of course, Parasurama, the saint with the axe, had to be the gym. Rama, the social leader, was the banquet hall where a conference for 300 people can be held easily.
For rejuvenation, it was Buddha, the spa. I had the signature massage and it worked wonders for me. The food is a good variety, with a mix of the continental and traditional. There’s also a bar at the hotel.
Explore: While most would like to see the traditional temple, it’s best to do booking for the darshan online. Tirumala has some exotic temples in the neighbourhood too. I went to an ancient Shiva temple in a neighbouring village. This had the trinity in the linga.
Then, we went to Tirumala and visited the Padmavati temple, Kapileshwara temple and went to see the spot on top of a hill where the feet of Lord Venkateswara lay. The hills are quite exotic with lots of greenery, places to stay and sacred spots. There’s also a deer park here and you can feed them cucumber and other veggies.
There are buses plying for the pilgrims in the hills. And the area is extremely clean.
How To Reach: Tirupati Airport is located at Tirumala, about 14km away from the city centre. This is well connected to the airports at Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore
Tirupati is well connected to all the major cities by the Andhra Pradesh State Run Transport Corporation buses. Cities in Karnataka are connected to Tirupati through the services of Karnataka State Run Transport Corporation buses. Private buses also ply from many South Indian cities to Tirupati.
It’s a pleasant drive from nearby cities of states like Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu to Tirupati.
The Tirupati Railway Station is well connected to the major railway stations in South India. Please share your experience of staying in pilgrim towns in the comments sec