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June 2013  
Special Reports
In this Issue





In this issue we will focus on the amazing destination Thekkady in South India with its brilliant opportunities for nature tourism and mouthwatering Keralan Cuisine.

We would like to begin with a short note about hot food and spicy food. Contrary to popular belief, Indian cuisine is not meant to be hot. There are a great variety of herbs and spices used in Indian cooking. These may add flavor, aid digestion, have medicinal properties or just bring color to the food (usually it's a combination of a few qualities).

The types and flavors of herbs and spices vary as you travel from one place to another within India. Just as anywhere else, there are people that cook and eat really spicy food; however, almost all Indian restaurants will ask for your preference while taking your order. If they forget to ask you, please do let your waiter know.

This month we look at the splendors of Thekkady, the nature tourism capital of Kerala state in South India.

Our culinary adventure through Keralan cuisine begins upon arrival at Thekkady which is home to a host of world class resorts and is the best springboard to explore the Periyar National Park and Lake.

Your resort check-in process starts off not with a regular welcome drink but rather over a cup of traditional Keralan tea. Periyar and its surrounding areas are considered the plantation heartland of South India so there are abundant Tea, Coffee and Spice plantations in the area. This not only adds verdant beauty to the region but also creates a waft of pleasant aromas in the air that you will come to enjoy throughout your stay.

Enjoy the many varieties of gourmet Keralan tea as your luggage is carted away, you will appreciate just how serious business the many flavors of tea and its accompaniments are considered in Kerala.

Proceed ahead on your journey of exploration by driving up to the Periyar National Park. The drive to Periyar is considered the most picturesque in South India. The Park straddles the Periyar Lake which is a man-made reservoir built in 1895 by damming the nearby Periyar river. The park rises at an elevation ranging from a few feet all the way to 6,000 feet above sea level. This gives the entire area a cooler clime that you will find most refreshing.

Kick-off a journey of discovery to one of the many spice plantations in the area. You will be fascinated as your tour director adroitly explains the various types of flora and fauna that chain the eco-system of the region.

As you partake in the many sights and amazing smells of the tea, coffee and spice varieties planted at the plantations you will want to take a break for snacks.

Indulge yourself in Kerala’s magnificent cuisine with generous helpings of samosas and Indian rarebit. Also at hand, are other traditional eats from the region such as Avalos Podi which is rice flour and grated coconut eaten with ripe bananas and sugar as well as Kothu Parotta which is made by tearing a Paratha (lightly pan-fried wheat dough in ghee) into small pieces and then sautéing it with onions, eggs, chicken or mutton gravies and masala powders to give you a uniquely local taste.

Even frequent travelers to India tend to agree that Keralan cuisine is unlike any other that they have tasted across India’s diverse cultural landscape.

As you finish off your snack do be sure to wash it down with a host of gourmet tea options that you will find as a staple to any meal in Thekkady.

Moving on from your plantation visit, you approach the Periyar lake for a relaxing boat ride. Enjoy the scenic beauty and lush greenery as you float atop the idyllic waters of the Periyar Lake.

As your worries sink away beneath the silent waters of Periyar, look around you to appreciate the many bird species that you can see whiling away time on the branches of nearby trees. Also visible are many of the 60 plus mammalian species that call Periyar National Park home. The Park is one of the largest Tiger Reserves in India and you might be very lucky to chance an extremely rare Tiger sighting at the shores of the Lake. More commonly visible though are the many herds of Elephants that come to the lake to quench their thirst and enjoy a bath. Also easily sighted are the Wild Boars and the Langurs living in the park.

As you finish off with your boating excursion, you will be taken to Elephant Junction, a signature attraction of the area. Use your time to get to know the majestic beasts at the facility. Interact with trainers and see how the elephant has been an integral part of the ancient lifestyle of the region.

For animal lovers, there is always the option of indulging in a bit of first hand TLC by helping to bathe and feed these gentle giants. Also on offer are the ever popular elephant rides that give you a feeling of literally being on top of the world.

Being done with these ginormous animals, you would have worked up an appetite that can only be satiated by a traditional Keralan lunch. As you might have heard, Kerala means “Land of the Coconut”. This becomes apparent as you begin to experience the many delicious flavors of Keralan cuisine. There is a saying that the Keralans have more uses for the coconut than there are stars in the sky.

So sit back and enjoy your lunch that has healthy servings of traditional delights such as Rasams, Payasams and a variety of dosas (which can best be described as fermented crepes or crisp pancakes made from rice batter and black lentils). Also on hand are generous servings of Sambhar, which is considered the sheet anchor of any South Indian meal.

While every state in south India has its own rendition of Sambhar, you will find the Sambhar in Kerala to be most tasteful and perhaps a little sweet. This is primarily due to the use to coconut cream to make the base of the mix. To the first time visitor, the Sambhar may look like a cross between a broth, chowder and curry along with a hearty mix of vegetables, nuts and spices thrown into make a signature Keralan dish.

As you finish your lunch you may want to wash it down with a generous serving of traditional aromatic Keralan coffee, the beans of which have been sourced from one of the many nearby plantations.

Post lunch, it might be in order to shift focus from culinary well-being to other parts of the mind, body and soul by delving into the realm of Ayurveda, the five thousand year old form of medicinal therapy that originated in Kerala.

As you step into your Ayurveda spa, you are greeted in the traditional manner with an application of a tilak to your forehead which is a form of good wishes and luck. You are then taken through a regime of body baths, oil treatments and massages that help relieve tensions, detoxify your system and soothe the body.

As you feel renewed from your Ayurveda spa therapy you might want to indulge in the many fruits that are grown in the immediate vicinity. Kerala is one of the leading areas of India that grows organic fruit such as mangoes, pineapples and other such delights. You will find these to be the perfect accompaniments to make you feel truly alive after your Ayurveda treatment.

As you settle into your resort at night for a truly back to nature experience, we would suggest you bring your day to a close with an old style Keralan dinner called the Sadhya.

The Sadhya is a three or four course vegetarian meal usually served on a banana leaf with plentiful servings of boiled rice and a variety of side dishes such as Parippy, Aviyal, Poduthal and Thoran. All the courses are accompanied by generous helpings of Pappadoms and Achar Pickles to enliven dinner proceedings.

To end your repast in signature Keralan style, we suggest you take a hearty serving of Payasam. The Payasam is another incarnation of the traditional Indian rice pudding (known as Kheer in North India) but with a distinct Keralan spin of using jaggery and coconut milk instead of sugar and milk.

    Chef of the Month


Jerry Mathew, Executive Chef, CGH Spice Village

Jerry has been associated with the CGH Group since the year 2000. During these 13 years has worked at a variety of CGH properties such as the Casino Hotel in Cochin, the Brunton Boatyard in Fort Cochin and the Marari Beach Resort in Mararikkulam.

He is presently working as the Executive Chef with the CGH Spice Village where he is responsible for the resort’s imaginative and diverse menu that brings out the best of Keralan cuisine all from locally sourced ingredients.

With such a long history with CGH and a track record of excellence, Jerry is one of the core members of the CGH culinary team and is widely respected in culinary circles and the hospitality industry in India.


Aadu Kurumulagu Roast :
(A rich Kerala specialty mutton preparation with fresh pepper).



1. Mutton : 7 oz (200gms)
2. Cardamoms : 3 nos
3. Cloves : 3 nos
4. Cinnamon stick : a small piece
5. Onion : 6 oz (150gm)
6. Ginger : a small piece
7. Garlic : 4 flakes
8. Green chili : 1 no
9. Curry leaf : a sprig
10. Tomato : 1 no.
11. Turmeric powder : ¼ tsp
12. Chili powder : 1 tsp
13. Coriander powder : 1 tsp
14. Fresh Pepper : 1 tsp
15. Garam masala : ½ tsp
16. Fennel Powder : ½ tsp
17. Coconut Milk : ½ cup
13. Coconut Oil : 3 tbsp
14. Salt : to taste


1. Heat oil in a thick bottom pan and add whole cardamoms, cloves, cinnamon, sliced onions, garlic, ginger, green chili and curry leaves. Sauté those well till the onions change to dark brown in color.


Padampuri Murg

2. Add the turmeric, chili, coriander and garam masala powders. Sauté them for a minute and add the slices of tomatoes and salt.

3. Cook well until the tomatoes get mashed and till the oil leaves from the gravy.

4. Then add the cuts of mutton and mix it well. Cook on a slow fire till the meat is tender.

5. Add the crushed fresh pepper and coconut milk; cook till it dries up.

6. Sprinkle fennel powder and serve hot.


Beetroot Patties with Peanut Salsa:
(A dry preparation of beetroot with a rich peanut sauce).




1. Beetroots : 7 oz (200 gm)
2. Shallots : 5 nos
3. Green chili : 1 no
4. Ginger : a small piece
5. Curry Leaves : 1 sprig
6. Crushed black Pepper : 1 tsp
7. Tapioca (or Potato): 2 oz (50 gm)
8. Oil : 2 tbsp
9. Salt : To taste


1. Clean and grate the beetroot. Clean & par boil the tapioca and grate it. Keep it aside.
2. Heat oil in a pan and add chopped shallots, ginger, green chili and curry leaves.
3. Sauté till golden brown in color, add the grated beetroot, salt and cook for some time.
4. Add the grated tapioca and finish with pepper powder.
5. Cool and shape it to small round patties.
6. Grill it to light brown color before serving.
7. Serve hot with peanut salsa.

Peanut Salsa

1. Peanuts : 4 oz (100 gm)
2. Tomato : 1 no.
3. Lime : 1 no.
4. Pepper powder : ¼ tsp
5. Oil : 5 ml
6. Salt : To taste

1. Crush the peanut, add the finely sliced tomato, lime juice, pepper, oil and salt.
2. Mix it nicely and serve along with patties.


Malliela Kozhi Curry :
(Chicken curry with coconut, highly flavored with coriander leaves).



1. Chicken cubes : 7 oz (200gms)
2. Coconut oil : 3 tbsp
3. Cardamom : 2 nos
4. Cinnamon : a small piece
5. Onion : 4 oz (100 gms)
6. Garlic : 4 flakes
7. Ginger : a small piece
8. Green Chili : 2 nos
9. Curry leaves : 1 spring
10. Turmeric powder : ¼ tsp
11. Chilli Powder : 1 tsp
12. Coriander powder : 1 tsp
13. Garam masala : ½ tsp
14. Fennel powder : ½ tsp
15. Salt : to taste
16. Coconut milk : 60 ml

For Pasting:

1. Coconut oil : 2 tbsp
2. Coriander leaves : 2 oz (50 gms)
3. Coconut grated : 2 oz (50 gms)
4. Cashew nuts : 1 oz (25 gms)
5. Coriander seeds : 0. 5 oz (15gms)

Heat oil in pan and sauté the coriander seeds, coconut and cashew nuts. Add the chopped coriander leaves and sauté few more minutes. Allow to cool and blend in a mixture to make a fine paste.



Heat the coconut oil in a pan & sauté cardamom, cinnamon, chopped onions, ginger, garlic, green chili and curry leaves till light brown in color. Add turmeric powder, chili powder, coriander powder, fennel powder and garam masala. Sauté it and add the chicken cubes with the above coriander paste, salt and little hot water. Allow it to cook well. Finish with coconut milk and heat well. After adding coconut milk, curry should not boil.
 Resort of the Month

 Spice Village

The Spice Village is a boutique luxury property owned by the CGH Group in the heart of the Periyar National Park in Thekkady. The entire resort has been imagined in the essence of a mountain tribal village, albeit with modern comforts to suit the tastes of the independent luxury traveler.

The CGH Spice Village - Back to nature without compromising comfort

Having said that, the focus of the Spice Village remains firmly on providing its luxurious experience in a setting that is back to nature and extremely eco-friendly. The property curls a misty ridge 2,000 feet high and at first glance seems to rise out of the forest itself. The idea is to provide the comforts of a modern hotel in a setting that does not intrude on the natural experience.

The entire resort has been built on the site of a former home of a British forest ranger and is replete with great natural wonders such as verdant greenery, fruit trees, flowering plants and rare herbs. These are then tastefully blended in with modern luxuries such as hot showers, modern plumbing and comfortable beds for matchless comfort albeit in Spartan simplicity.

Visitors to the Spice Village will note the dynamically different way that the property is managed from the minute they arrive. Guest check-ins at the resort are not done at the concierge but rather in the lawns of the resort where guests are treated to some wonderfully brewed mountain tea as their baggage is whisked away to their rooms.

If there is one continuous theme to a sojourn at the Spice Village, it is that luxury does not need to come at the cost of damage to nature. The resort takes this axiom to heart and every aspect is a great reflection of this code.

The rooms and cottages at the resort all are envisioned as cosy personal spaces and are designed as Spartan classy accommodations. The roofs are thatched elephant grass which is water proof and regularly inspected. The material is used for its toughness, durability as well as the fact that it is completely recyclable and is used as fodder and ropes after it is replaced.

Similarly flooring is stone floor with coir mats that are all sourced from local materials. Bathrooms have all the modern amenities of a world class property but have been elegantly designed on simple, natural materials and local woodcraft.

Other aspects of the resort also complement its back to nature approach. For entertainment, there is the Tiger Club that offers some great resources as well as expert advice on how to make the most of your visit to the Periyar National Park and appreciate the diverse wildlife of the region.

The resort is particularly proud of its “50 Mile Diet” concept. The idea is that all food sourced by the resort comes from within a 50 mile radius thereby being organic, ecologically friendly as well as a great source of income and support for the local communities. Also most of the vegetables used to create the resort’s signature Keralan cuisine also comes from its own on-site organic farm.

For guests looking to go beyond the nature experience at the Spice Village, there are two signature restaurants at the resort that boast of immense luxury and a rich history. The Woodhouse Bar at the resort used to be the original house of the forest ranger Mr. A.A Woods and is a great place to see pictures of the wildlife and the nobility of the region. Also the other restaurant, the Tiffin Room boasts of furniture that is one hundred years old and is a great source for great food and a variety of freshly brewed teas.
 News Update
 From the Head Office in Delhi

  Mughal era tombs restored to their traditional grandeur
Restoring the splendors of the past

A major conservation exercise that took over two years to complete has just been concluded for two iconic Mughal-era tombs in Delhi.

The conservation project was undertaken by the Archeological Survey of India in conjunction with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and involved the restoration of the tomb of Isa Khan Niazi as well as Bu Halima. Both tombs are located in the immediate periphery of the Tomb of Humayun, the second great Mughal emperor, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Speaking about the challenges of the restoration project, Mr. Ratish Nanda, Project Director, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture stated, “For conservation to be successful in our country it is necessary that we return to a craft-based approach where master craftsmen are empowered to match the work of their forefathers using traditional materials, tools and building craft traditions.”

Mr. Nanda elucidated on the level of meticulous planning that went into the two year conservation exercise. He explained how the original skills set was used to replicate the broken pieces of the tombs and that a lot of research went into making the restoration exercise look in line with the original construction of the tomb.

Furthermore since a lot of the skills required for re-building the tombs are located in former Mughal imperial realms that now are located outside the borders of modern India, a team of specialists had to go to countries as far afield as Uzbekistan and Iran to get things like the tile work required for the restoration exercise.

Apart from the restoration of the tombs themselves, there was extensive landscaping that was done to restore the old garden tombs to their previous grandeur under the Mughal Empire. More than a million cubic feet of earth was removed from the premises so that the original orchard trees could be replanted at the site. Also a road that was built by the British and had demolished the outer peripheral wall of the Bu Halima tomb was dismantled, so that the wall could be restored according to the original design.

The successful completion of the restoration exercise is being hailed as a great victory for the cross functional team of archeologists, historians, artisans, craftsmen as well as the government bodies and international donor agencies involved.

There is however a growing realization that more needs to be done to protect these priceless skills in India that have been passed from generation to generation and made the building of these iconic structures possible.

*Elements of the above excerpted with gratitude from “Mughal era tombs restored to their traditional grandeur “ – published first in thehindu.com on May 21, 2013.

 From the Jaipur Office

Rajasthan celebrates the Annual Summer Festival at Mount Abu

Mount Abu is the only hill station in the Western Indian state of Rajasthan. The hill station is situated at an elevation of 1,220 meters above sea leveland has been a popular retreat for Rajasthanis for centuries to escape the cruel summers of the state.

Mount Abu is home to a plethora of attractions including the Mount Abu Wildlife Sanctuary as well as the Nakki Lake. Furthermore, the area has a string of ancient Hindu and Jain temples along with the Achalgarh Fort which makes for some interesting sightseeing excursions.

The Government of Rajasthan’s Department of Tourism and the local district administration hold an annual Summer Festival at Mount Abu. The festival marks the onset of summer as well as the Buddha Poornima, a traditional festival that marks the birth, enlightenment as well as the death of Gautma Buddha.

This year the Summer Festival at Mount Abu was held from May 23 to May 25. There were loads to see and experience for the visiting tourists in the form of colorful parades, dress shows, funfairs as well as a traditional marketplace. Hosts of traditional Rajasthani competitions including the Matka Race as well as the famous Tug of War were also organized during the festival.

For a more hands on experience, tourists could take part in trekking and hiking at Mount Abu as well as take boat journeys in the Nakki Lake.

The cultural experience at this year’s Summer Festival at Mount Abu was further augmented by performances of famous artistes such as the Sufi folk singer, Sonam Kalra and the Odisi dancer, Manjushri Pande. Also new to the festival this year was a feature titled “Colors of the Tribes”, during which tribal folk performers regaled visitors with a mélange of song, music and dance.
 From the Agra Office

Taj Replicas around the world seek to bask in reflected glory!

Nothing comes close to the real thing

While it is said imitation is the sincerest form of flattery , the Taj Mahal seems to have a record number of inspired clones of itself around the world.

While many have argued that the Taj Mahal itself has elements that have been inspired from earlier Mughal monuments such as Humayun’s Tomb and the Itimad-ud-Daulah Tomb, there is no doubt the Taj Mahal was a superlative concept that eclipsed all previous Mughal garden tombs of South Asia.

The massive scale of the Taj Mahal, its indescribable beauty and the depth of thought in the concept has ensured that even after the passage of nearly half a millennium, the Taj Mahal remains unmatched as a symbol of eternal love.

Having said that, there has been no dearth of Taj Mahal inspired clones that started sprouting up soon after the construction of the original. The first known “inspired design” of the Taj was built by Emperor Aurangzeb, the son of Shah Jehan, the Mughal emperor who commissioned the original Taj.

Aurangzeb built a smaller, albeit clearly inspired copy of the Taj Mahal in the city of Aurangabad in South India in memory of his decesased wife. Titled “Bibi Ka Maqbara” (the Tomb of the Lady), the complex is also called the Deccani Taj (The Taj of the Deccan) and is a major tourist attraction in the city to this date.

Not to be outdone by the Mughals, many other nations since then have tried replicating a Taj Mahal clone in their country, a near full scale replica has been built near the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka by a private business man. The monument was created so that the poor people of Bangladesh who could not travel to Agra to see the real thing, could enjoy the feeling of seeing the Taj in their own country. The replica took five years to build because machinery was used along with the same type of marble as the original Taj Mahal for the same effect. The total price tag of this clone is said to have cost US$ 56 million.

Another full scale model featuring a luxury hotel and a marriage hall is expected to come up in Dubai in the next few years. Furthermore a scaled down version has been made in Shanghai in the Window to the World Theme Park. In the continental USA, two buildings, the Tripoli Temple Shrine and the Trump Taj Mahal Tower both claim that they have been heavily inspired by the Taj Mahal.

While the story of the Taj Mahal and the matchless beauty of its design may continue to inspire clones through the ages, none has ever come close to even being a shadow of the real thing in Agra.

Small wonder then, that the original Taj Mahal continues to be popular with tourists from around the world and gets over 3 million visitors a year who come to revel in the feeling of selfless love and undying devotion that the monument inspires.

 From the Ranthambore Office

Tiger Safari at Ranthambhore and Nahargarh on the cards

In the interest of promoting greater tourism through safe and sustainable Tiger sightings, the Indian Forest Department is planning to create a safari park at the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve.
This and a plethora of other major decisions were recently taken by the Government of India in an effort to promote greater nature tourism in the country.

As part of these initiatives, a safari park at Ranthambhore will be created on 550 hectares, around 12 kms from the reserve near Bhuri Pahari area, according to officials of the Forest Department.

The aim of creating the Tiger Safari would be to facilitate tourist sightings of Tigers while at the same time balance the requirements of not disturbing the natural habitat of these majestic cats.

Furthermore, two more Tiger Safaris will also be established at Nahargarh Rescue Centre near Jaipur and at Bala Quila Sanctuary near Alwar.

In order to ensure the sustainability of this new initiative, the Critical Tiger Habitat (CTH) area of Ranthambhore and Sariska Tiger Reserves will be increased and CTH area falling out of the present sanctuary will also be included in the sanctuary area.

Other major decisions announced included the introduction of Sambhar Deer at the Jaisamand Sanctuary near Udaipur. Forest Department officials claimed that this would be a major change for the sanctuary as these Deer would have to be trans-located to the area.

Furthermore it was announced that the government plans to build a semi-captive exhibit centre for Siberian Cranes at Keoladeo National Park near Bharatpur, which would create opportunities for conservation as well as nature tourism.

All of these decisions are expected to have far reaching implications for nature tourism in India. They will however have to be approved by the National Wildlife Board before they can be implemented.

*Elements of the above excerpted with gratitude from “Tiger Safari at Ranthambhore, Nahargarh on the cards” – published first in daily.bhaskar.com on May18, 2013.

 From the Kochi Office

Rafting on the Tejaswini River

Kerala is emerging as one of the fastest growing tourism destinations of India. The state with its natural wonders, cultural windows as well as rich history and hospitality is drawing tourists from around the world.

A more recent phenomenon in the state has been the growth of adventure tourism. One of the key adventure tourism attractions in Kerala is white water rafting on the Tejaswini River.

The best place to kick start a white water rafting experience on the Tejaswini is Cherupuzha in Kannaur district. The setting here is ideal to set off amid the hysterical waves of the gorgeous river which is more often than not accompanied by a seasonal shower of rain.

The Tejaswini River originates from the Brahmagiri Hills of Coorg Forest in the neighboring state of Karnataka and flows through the districts of Kannur and Kasaragod before it meets the Arabian Sea near Nileswaram. The river is 64 km long of which about 20 km is ideal for white water rafting.

Tejaswini River is known globally as one of the finest places to experience white water rafting in South Asia. Apart from the lively course of the river itself, there is the thick foliage, verdant greenery, rustic scenery as well as abundant wildlife to add considerable value to the experience.

The ride is both exhilarating and liberating. The strong current of Tejaswini gradually settles and the river attains her true form as she enters Kasaragod which is the end point of the journey.

While white water rafting is indeed an experience of a lifetime, it is important to remember that proper precautions should be taken prior to rafting. Always remember to use a reputable operator in India who is certified to conduct the tour. Also following the instructions of the raft guide and being equipped with the proper equipment like life-jackets, helmets, repair kits and first aid boxes are compulsory to enjoy the journey in both comfort and safety.

 Festival Alerts

Nehru Trophy Boat Race
10 August - 2013

The Nehru Trophy Boat Race or Snake Boat Race is the most popular of the many boat festivals in Kerala. It is held annually on Punnamda Lake, near Alappuzha, and is reputed to be the most competitive boat race in India.

The Nehru Trophy Boat Race is a commemoration of the visit to the Backwaters of Kerala by the late Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru in 1952.

The whole community comes out to cheer on the racers. The loud and rhythmic boat songs or “Vanchipattu” work the spectators into a state of frenzy. The Nehru Trophy Boat Race is a great opportunity for tourists to experience the real local culture of South India while seeing some of the most beautiful scenery that Kerala has to offer.

The festival begins with a procession of the chundan vallams or snake boats. The locally made chundans (snake boats) are an impressive sight. They measure over 100 feet in length and have a raised prow. Propelled by 90-110 rowers, the chundans are an eye catching spectacle as they race like a snake through the channels of Punnamda Lake (hence the name snake boat).

On the day of this fiercely contested boat race, the tranquil lake front is transformed into a sea of humanity with an estimated two hundred thousand people coming to watch the event. Each village in the surrounding area enters a boat in the race. Victory in the Nehru Trophy Boat Race is a prized achievement forany village and celebrations commemorating the victory last for months after the race.

Preparations for the Nehru Trophy Boat Race begin several weeks in advance. Floats giving glimpses of Kerala’s rich cultural heritage follow the race boats, with artists performing traditional Indian dance forms such as “kathakali” “theyyam” “panchavadyam” and “padayani”. Visitors also have an opportunity to see elaborately caparisoned elephants during this festival.


Easy Tours of India
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