I can’t think of any better way to celebrate love in the most romantic places in India, without mentioning Kalidasa- the 5th-century poet who many consider being the greatest poet in the history of the Sanskrit language.
Meghaduta (The Cloud Messenger), Kalidasa’s famous work, has become an inalienable asset in Indian culture. Kalidasa’s cloud has become a convention, a symbol, to the point that every literary work in Indian culture with even a notion of love is a mere footnote to Kalidasa’s Meghaduta.
The story depicted in Meghaduta is about Yaksha – half-man, half-god- who was punished severely, and sentenced to a long exile in the south of India. Poor Yaksha was separated from his beloved wife, who had to stay far up in the Himalayas, and suffered from intolerable longing. Being isolated in his agony and pain, he asked the first monsoon cloud floating above him to deliver his message of love to his distant wife. The cloud then started his journey to the north, hovering above India’s landscape of love.
In this post, we will be riding too, on Yaksha’s cloud, above the most romantic places in India. Some of these locations are famous worldwide for their strong connection to love and romance, and some have been left unrecognized as monuments of love. We chose a few because of their setting that can melt even the coldest of hearts. Others were chosen simply for the story they hold.
We must confess, however, before we hop on Kalidasa’s cloud, that our journey won’t use the same trail as Yaksha’s cloud messenger.
Get off the cloud at Hampi (secrets and hidden love)
Hampi, a Unesco world heritage site, is a hilly landscaped village in northern Karnataka. It’s the perfect place for hidden love. The boulders and ancient ruins of Vijayanagara, the former capital of the Vijayanagara Empire, is the ultimate setting for every lover’s secrets.
Get off the cloud at Agonda, Goa (be inspired by turtles)
Fifteen minutes south of Palolem, there is a wild and remote beach named Agonda. Just next to this natural and simple beach are rooms and bungalows to run to, to get away from the Palolem fuss. Agonda beach is also famous as a Ridley turtle nesting site, so maybe this Valentine’s Day you’ll get some inspiration for something wild as well.
Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai (love burns)
Again, we return to one of the most famous temples in southern India, this time to the Lotus pool in the centre of the temple. The site was not chosen because of human love, but for the love of a God, in this case, Shiva.
The story tells that Nakkeerar, a famous medieval Tamil poet, had doubted Lord Shiva’s capabilities in the esthetics of love poetry. He had criticized a poetic motif Lord Shiva had used in a poetry contest held in the king’s courtyard.
Shiva became furious and opened his third eye to burn Nakkeerar, who kept insisting on the fault in Shiva’s poem. That was when Shiva could no longer control his anger, and opened his divine eye, burning Nakkeerar, who could not bear the scorching heat emanating from the eye, causing him to jump into the Golden Lotus pool.
Coming out of the pool, Nakkeerar found that he had completely lost his memory. He could not remember anything, lest the entire grammatical rules of Tamil love poetry. Now, Nakkeerar had to learn everything from scratch, which he did. Years later, Nakkeerar wrote his first poem after the incident.
The poem was dedicated to Shiva, like all other poems he had written since then. The pool at Meenakshi temple is the place where the strongest love for Shiva was born. It is a celebration of the rebirth and breaking free from the rules which may hold us away from expressing our love in the fullest.
Our next stop will be a place where you can meet living gods who made their fame by expressing love and becoming richer from it in the meanwhile.
Bollywood studios in Mumbai (the heart is crazy)
Bollywood is the place where the whole spectrum of the expression of love is on the line; love between straight couples, gays, lesbians, love towards gods and goddesses, love towards the love, romance or eroticism, and whatever lies between. Of course, so long as it comes in the highest volume possible.
Bollywood is constantly shaping India’s concept of love. Its films address some of the core issues which arise in Indian society, such as love marriages versus arranged, or any forbidden love you can think of.
Bollywood movies celebrate the idea that love can overcome, or at least challenge, the orders of society, even the strictest. There might not always be happy endings, however. And what about Bollywood stars? They are becoming gods for delivering the message of love.
As Vatsyayana, the author of the Kamasutra once noted: “When the wheel of sexual ecstasy is in full motion, there is no textbook and no order”. Indeed, Bollywood films quite often burn India’s social “textbooks” and get rewarded for that at the box office.
Visiting Bollywood studios in Mumbai is a visit to India’s biggest love factory. We recommend that you tour Shah Rukh Khan’s love factory.
The next station will be eastwards to Orissa, to have a look over the mighty Bay of Bengal.
Konark Temple Orissa (love’s architecture jam shining from the distance)
In our previous post, we already mentioned the Khajuraho temple as an architecture jam dedicated to love and sex. Konark temple in Orissa is also a timeless masterpiece built with love and for love. Like Khajuraho, Konark belongs to a medieval group of temples, and both hold common motifs with many questions remained unsolved. If there is one clear and unambiguous message in the sensuality of the sculpted representations of Konark temple, it is that the human soul is preeminently amorous and nothing but.
Now let’s get the consensus.
Taj Mahal (make love simple)
Probably more than anything else in the world, Taj Mahal Is linked to the deepest feeling of love in the most total and uncompromisable way. It has become synonymous with the word love. For some, the Taj Mahal may be considered as the physical manifestation for the abstract notion of love. Our suggestion, however, for this Valentine’s Day, is not to visit from the inside, but from outside. The Taj is located on the Yamuna bank, on the other side of the Yamuna, you can sit on a wide, sandy beach, and watch as the Taj changes its colours in the sunset.
As simple as that.
Jaisalmer in Rajasthan (a romantic oasis of the endless desert)
While so many cliches addressed to the desert are attributes of loneliness and remoteness, as a metaphor of life without love, Jaisalmer is proof that love as water can be found everywhere. The Golden City of Jaisalmer was pulled straight out of the fancy world from the fables of the Arabian Nights. At night, when the stars arise and merge with endless desert and dunes, having a beer on any of the old city’s restaurant rooftops or at the hotel can be an extremely kitschy, yet romantic, experience.
Our final stop, where Kalidasa’s cloud messenger evaporates, is the land of passion and romance-Kashmir.
Nagin Lake, Kashmir (landscape of fantasy)
Kashmir is famous for being an object of love and passion in India. Kashmir was the background for some of Bollywood’s most sensual scenes and romantic plots. This very fact illustrates how the landscape of Kashmir is perceived in India. What kind of another collective feeling can bring this up?
I doubt if there is another place in India with the same romantic magnitude attached to it as Kashmir.
Nagin Lake got its name from the trees surrounding the lake. Commonly known as the Jewel Ring, it is one of the most impressive lakes in east Srinagar. Since the best time to visit Kashmir is from mid-May to October, you’ll have to be patient until then. Fortunately, love isn’t limited by time, and Valentine’s Day can last through the entire year, as long as you want to, and the land of passion and fantasy will be waiting.
That was our list for some of the most romantic places in India, please feel free to comment below. Happy Valentine’s Day!