Thursday November 23, 2017
Home Life Style Travel Travel luxuri...

Travel luxuriously to India’s heritage destinations (Travelogue)

0
70

New Delhi: Fancy travelling to two popular Unesco World Heritage Sites and a city of old-world charm and multiple religious faiths on a single journey? Come January 2016 and that’s exactly what you can do aboard a new ‘semi-luxury heritage circuit tourist train’ launched by IRCTC, a subsidiary of Indian Railways.

Departing from the rather languid Safdarjung railway station here, the five-day-four-night package first takes you to Varanasi and thence to Khajuraho and Agra, before returning to Delhi.

“Varanasi, Khajuraho and Agra are immensely popular among not only foreign tourists but also for Indians. There are no trains that directly connect these three spots. We, therefore, launched this train to make it easy for tourists to visit these three places in a solo trip,” IRCTC Tourism Manager AS Pandey told IANS during the inaugural run of the train.

The itinerary has been drawn up taking into account all the needs of travellers. From accommodation to transportation and food, everything is the responsibility of IRCTC.

“We have Maharaja packages and normal trains (aimed specifically at tourists). We wanted to come up with something that fills up the gap between these two extremes.

The package has been made keeping in mind the different economical sections of society,” IRCTC Public Relations Officer Sandip Dutta told IANS.

The effort put to maintain the hygiene and cleanliness of the train is appreciable.

“Apart from cutlery, the food provided by IRCTC is same for all the three categories on the train (1st a/c, IInd a/c, three-tier a/c). The travellers are put up in luxury hotels at the three destinations and a/c buses are arranged for ground transportation,” Dutta added.

Spending the first night on the train, I and my fellow travellers arrived in Varanasi early in the morning. The air was nippy but that did not take away from the excitement. We soon headed to Sarnath, the place where Gautam Buddha delivered his first sermon after attaining enlightenment in Bodh Gaya. Considered pious by Buddhists, the place attracts many foreign tourists from across the world. The calm and serene atmosphere of this holy place give solace to the soul.

After spending some leisure time hopping around the city, it was time to witness the quintessential “Ganga Aarti” at Dashashwamedh Ghat, one of the oldest in Varanasi and the boat ride across the holy river. Thousands gather every day to watch this event where the priests offer prayers to Hindu gods and goddesses.

With Day 2 coming to an end, we wrapped up our Varanasi moments and headed towards our next destination, Khajuraho, which greeted us with an early morning wintry chill and misty surroundings, marking the beginning of Day 3.

The Khajuraho set of temples, located in Chhatarpur district of Madhya Pradesh, which was built by the Chandela dynasty between the 9th and 11th centuries, is spread across four zones – the western part being the main tourist attraction. The temples, built in Indo-Aryan style, not just represent architectural finesse but are also the amalgamation of two religions – Hinduism and Jainism. This is proof of the acceptance and respect for each other’s communities.

The erotic sculptures of the temple are something to be perceived beyond the Kama Sutra. The bold sculptures range from self-pleasing acts to orgies to bestiality – and exotic sexual positions. With the sun setting behind the temples, I headed for a musical show that highlighted the diversity of Indian culture, ending the stay at Khajuraho.

On Day 4 we arrived at Agra and, without much delay, were taken to the Taj Mahal. The sun was setting, the fog had gathered and the cold breeze sweeping across the Yamuna made us shiver but nothing could take away from the majestic view and the white beauty of the monument as the sky got enveloped in a pinkish hue.

One of the Seven Wonders of world, Taj Mahal, which is undoubtedly the most popular tourist destination in India that draws crowds in the thousands every day, still holds the power to mesmerise with its beauty, no matter the innumerable times one visits it.

Capturing every moment spent at the Taj, the day ended, making way for the final destination of the trip on last day.

Braving the shivering morning cold of Agra city, we headed towards Fatehpur Sikri. The fort has a rich historical background attached to it. Built by Emperor Akbar, the city was the capital of the Mughal empire during 1571-1585. The structure, a combination of Persian and Hindu architecture, looked glorious as the early rays of sun kissed its red sandstone walls.

It was then time to board the train for one last time for the return journey to Delhi but what will endure are some of the memorable moments spent on those five days. (IANS,  Somrita Ghosh), (image courtesy: newsforindia.com)

Next Story

Indian Railways to use artificial intelligence

Earlier, railways used a manual maintenance system

0
40
Railways to use AI
Artificial Intelligence will also reduce the probability of delays and accidents to a great extent. Wikimedia Commons

New Delhi. November 21, 2017:

Aiming to reduce the possibilities of signals failing, Indian Railways has undertaken remote condition monitoring of the system, a new approach for the national transporter, to predict failures through the effective use of Artificial Intelligence.

The Signalling system is vital for safe train operations and the railways completely depend on the health of its signalling assets along with real-time information.

Currently, the railways follow a manual maintenance system and adopt find-and-fix methods rather than predict-and-prevent approach.

“Now, we are introducing remote condition monitoring using non-intrusive sensors for continuous online monitoring of signals, track circuits, axle counters and their sub-systems of interlocking, power supply systems including the voltage and current levels, relays, timers,” said a senior Railway Ministry official involved with the project.

The system entails the collection of inputs on a pre-determined interval and sending this to a central location.

As a result, any flaws or problems in the signalling system would be detected on a real-time basis and rectified to avoid possible delays and mishaps.

The failure of signals is one of the major reasons for train accidents and delays.

Currently, remote monitoring of signalling is operational in Britain.

The system envisages data transfer through a wireless medium (3G, 4G and high-speed mobile) and data based on these inputs will be utilised, with help of Artificial Intelligence (AI), for predictive and prescriptive Big Data analytics.

This will enable prediction of signalling asset failures, automated self-correction and informed decisions on intervention strategies, said the official.

The railways have decided that trial is taken up in two sections of Western Railway and South Western Railway at Ahmedabad-Vadodara and Bengaluru-Mysuru.

Depending on the feedback, the system would gradually be extended to other sections. (IANS)

Next Story

Will India be able to travel in the Bullet Train Soon? Yes, Say Railway Officials; Indian Railways Target Completing the Project Before the August 2022 Deadline

The foundation stone for the Rs 1.08 lakh crore ($17 billion) 508-km Ahmedabad-Mumbai Bullet Train was laid in Ahmedabad by Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe on September 14

0
47
Bullet Train
Railway Board Chairman held a high-level meeting in Rail Bhavan last Thursday which was attended by Japanese Ambassador Kenji Hiramatsu, and Niti Aayog Vice Chairman. (representative image) Wikimedia

New Delhi, November 10, 2017 : Unfazed by opposition criticism, Indian Railways is working overtime to push ahead with the much-talked about the “Bullet Train” project, aiming to complete it ahead of the August 2022 deadline set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani, who has a reputation of a turnaround man, has taken up the task of monitoring and chairing the periodic review meetings of the project that is estimated to cost over Rs 1 lakh crore ($15 billion).

Lohani held a high-level meeting in Rail Bhavan last Thursday which was attended by Japanese Ambassador Kenji Hiramatsu, Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar, Central government officials, Principal Secretary-rank officials of Gujarat and Maharashtra, officials of NHSRCL (National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited), officials of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the General Manager of Western Railway.

A senior railway board member, requesting anonymity, told IANS, “The railways is in no mood to delay the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train project. Lohani will now hold a review meeting once every three months… And even on weekly basis, if required.”

Emphasising on the government’s intention, the official said, “The attendance of the Niti Aayog Vice Chairman, the Japanese Ambassador and the CRB in the review meeting is a clear signal that the government is taking the project seriously and there is no scope for any delay.”

“The CRB wants Indian Railway officials to take lessons from their Japanese counterparts about meeting deadlines,” he said.

The opposition has attacked the government for taking up a project at a huge cost instead of focusing on safety, a dire need of the time, and on schemes to improve passenger amenities.

The official said it was also decided at the meeting that “a road map for consultancy and civil engineering works will be prepared by January 2018”.

A ministry official associated with the Bullet Train project said a report on the signalling system and electrical reports would be ready by April 2018. According to him, the tracks and most of the signalling system would be brought from Japan.

The foundation stone for the Rs 1.08 lakh crore ($17 billion) 508-km Ahmedabad-Mumbai Bullet Train was laid in Ahmedabad by Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe on September 14.

Of the Rs 1.08 lakh crore, Japan is giving a loan of Rs 88,000 crore at a minimal interest of 0.1 per cent for 50 years. And the repayment will begin only after 15 years.

The railway official said that to encourage the Prime Minister’s ambitious ‘Make in India’ programme, “an appeal will be made to Indian and Japanese companies to make use the opportunity to work together”.

Meanwhile, the officials of the government of Maharashtra and Gujarat assured the railways of their help in land acquisition and smooth shifting of raw materials to construction venues.

A three-level monitoring committee was also constituted, including the Vice Chairman of Niti Ayog and Special Advisor to Japanese Prime Minister.

A working group led by Managing Director of NHSRCL Achal Khare and consisting of representatives of the ministries concerned, and the representative of JICA, has been formed. Besides the two committees, a technical expert committee led by the Managing Director of NHSRCL has also been formed.

Of the 508 km stretch, 92 per cent (468 km) of the route will be elevated, six per cent (27 km) will be in tunnels and the remaining two per cent (13 km) will be on the ground .

The high-speed train would also pass through the country’s longest tunnel of 21 km, of which seven km will be under the sea.

Twelve stations have been proposed that include Mumbai, Thane, Virar, Boisar, Vapi, Bilimora, Surat, Bharuch, Vadodara, Anand, Ahmedabad and Sabarmati.

The distance will be covered in two hours and seven minutes if the train stops at four stations — Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and Mumbai. If the train stops at all 12 stations, it will cover the distance in two hours and fifty-eight minutes.

According to Railway Ministry officials, the operating speed of the bullet train would be 320 kmph and the maximum speed would be 350 kmph.

 

(Editorial note : This article has been written by Anand K. Singh and was first published by IANS. Anand can be contacted at can be contacted at anand.s@ians.in)

Next Story

Over Rs 50,000 Crore Spent on Rail Safety till August 31

0
31
Indian Railway
A Passenger Train in India. Wikimedia

New Delhi, October 24: The government on Tuesday said it has spent over Rs 50,000 crore out of a total outlay of Rs 1.31 lakh crore on rail safety in this fiscal.

The government has planned a capital expenditure outlay of Rs 131,000 crore for railway safety in 2017-18, of which it spent Rs 50,762 crore till August 31, Finance Secretary Ashok Lavasa told reporters after a Union Cabinet meeting.

The government in its Budget this year announced a special safety fund of Rs 1.31 lakh crore for Indian Railways.

Lavasa said the pace of laying new railway tracks had been hastened from 380 km in 2014-15 to 953 km in 2016-17. (IANS)