It’s a small village in Himachal Pradesh where the Beas River meets the plains. This village was set up by the Sood clan; in fact, it’s right next to Pragpur, another place one should visit. Garli has these old homes with slate shingles, jaali brickwork and remnants of Belgian glass chandeliers. Each home is built in its own individualistic style; some of them are like a chateau, all with beautiful brickwork, worth capturing on camera. Several houses have been locked up and left to decay by the owners. But do walk around and get some nice photographs as Garli is really picturesque.
What makes Kapurthala in Punjab remarkable is all the French architecture; it had about seven palaces, some of which have been demolished. The Jagatjit Palace is the largest but difficult to access as it’s also the Sainik School. Some are quite decrepit and threatened by the possibility of demolition, such as the Lal Kothi and the Jalli Kothi. But the place that will take your breath away is the Moorish Mosque, an immaculate and well-maintained structure. There are some lovely havelis in town, and even the Shalimar Bagh with its memorials is worth exploring with your lens.
This remarkable town in Madhya Pradesh is home to the Chanderi saree. As you wander around town, you encounter homes where entire families are busy weaving these exquisite sarees. Don’t miss the opportunity to capture these skilled artisans at the loom. Then there’s the Chanderi Fort and below it an amazing gate called the Badal Mahal, which really doesn’t lead anywhere, but is beautifully carved.
I had gone to Gokak in North Karnataka to shoot a factory owned by Shapoorji Pallonji. Gokak Mills used to drive the economy of the place and lies right on the banks of a river where there is a waterfall. Gokak, in fact, is known for this beautiful waterfall, which becomes a thunderous body during the monsoon and has a lovely bridge over it. To harness its enormous energy, the first hydroelectric plant was set up here in 1887; it still exists, with the beautiful original machinery, though it’s been modified a bit. You can get a nice angle of the factory itself, with its entire facade running along the river.
One place where you least expect to find a large palace is Chhattisgarh. However, Sarangarh has the huge and wonderful Giri Vilas, which was a Gondh raja’s palace. In the same complex used to be one of the high courts of India, which got decommissioned. The complex is layered with older palaces that were left as they were as new wings were added. The newest is Giri Vilas, which has a tall clock tower and is quite imposing. The complex’s layered aspects are worth capturing on camera.
Located in Odisha’s Kendrapara district, Aul lies just north of Cuttack. You arrive at this beautiful palace, not high and mighty but low-slung, laid out with a small lagoon as a backdrop. It lies along the banks of the Kharasrota river. There are a couple of temples in town. The nearby Bhitarkanika Sanctuary is home to saltwater crocodiles—another place to abandon your camera to its charms. If you want to catch the beauty of the tidal water and the palace surrounds, the early morning light is best. For shooting the wild verdure, go for the evening light.
Located in North Karnataka, Bijapur is famed for its Gol Gumbaz. Set in a very large complex, it will appeal to your trigger-happy lens and allow you to shoot it from many different angles. Though it appears to be a bit squat on the outside, when you go in, the interior is so imposing that it takes your breath away. Ibrahim Rauzain Bijapur is another photogenic complex. It has this beautiful calligraphic jaali, damaged now, but again quite unique in having an identity of its own. With the right light, your lens can capture some superb shots of its detailing.
South of Puducherry on the Tamil Nadu coast, Tranquebar, or Tharangambadi, is an amazing place. There are the remains of a Chola temple; the Dansborg Fort along the beach, one of whose walls now goes into the sea; and a few roads with lovely buildings, some restored after being damaged by the tsunami.
Sirpur is an amazing heritage site in Chhattisgarh with its Jain, Hindu and Buddhist temples. Of the 180 or 200 mounds that have been discovered, only a few have been opened up and already 30 to 40 temples have been found. The stone that was used is kind of fossilised, possibly dating to the 7th century, and the carvings are stunning. You could spend an entire day walking, from the remnants of a Buddhist monastery to the temples, some of them scattered in the middle of fields.
Karauli is a spectacular fortress town in Rajasthan. The entire town came up around the peripheral walls of the fortress that comes down to this beautiful lake by which there are also ghats, where funeral pyres would be lit. The main palace, which dates to the 13th century, is a photographer’s delight. There’s the Durbar Hall and the zenanas overlooking it; the zenanas have this incredible carpeted flooring, which is actually painted.
—with Ranee Sahaney
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