Sixth Floor Museum at Downtown, Dallas

6th Floor Museum

6th Floor Museum

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About the Museum (source – http://www.jfk.org/go/about ): The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza is located on the sixth and seventh floors of an early 20th-century warehouse known in 1963 as the Texas School Book Depository. Opened on Presidents Day 1989, the Museum has since welcomed more than 6 million visitors from around the world—people of all ages seeking information and understanding about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Museum tours are self-guided.

I’ve been to several kinds of museums – art, painting, sculpture, folk, religious, archaeological, celebrity, popular figure, city glory etc. This  one stands apart beacause of its theme. Mind you, it isn’t JFK museum, but a Kennedy Presidency museum. Or more specifically, Kennedy assasination museum. This isn’t your run of the mill welcome-and-see-my-artifacts kind of museum you would usually find for famous people. 6th Floor musuem doesn’t try to show you too many things, it just sticks to its theme and that’s what makes it message delivery effective.

A little data now. Very young and Catholic, both factors went against him. With odds against his favor, JFK won in the presidential elections, albiet marginally. His children were first in last 50 years to live in White House. A fiery and sensible orator, Kennedy had huge approval ratings. Consequenty, he vowed to improve the conditions in US in 1960s – putting man on moon, taking unilateral peace decisions etc. In the 3rd year of his presidency, he started contemplating second term. To network and raise funds, he came to ‘Tour of Texas’ in 1963. His tour was to visit 5 places in texas – Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, Fort Worth and Houston. Since he supported the Civil Rights movement, there was severe dissidence among several people. .

JFK

JFK

While Kennedy’s convoy was taking a hairpin turn, someone shot him from the 6th floor of this building. And the spot became the museum. The alleged assasin Lee Harvey Oswald, was nabbed soon. However, Lee was shot dead by a local businessman and Kennedy supporter. The murder pictures – both JFK’s and Lee’s and videos are exhibited. The exhibits relate to his presidency, murder, mourning and repercussions. There are well documented and presented material on memorable events of his presidency – Cuban Missile crisis, famous Ich bin ein Berliner speech at Berlin, Vietnam War, his efforts to end racial discrimination among the major ones.

Entrance fee is 14 USD, plus parking is 5 USD for a full day. There is an audio guide, in 7 languages, which will guide you to get maximum value out of this visit. You won’t need a human tour guide. I suggest take at least 2 and a half hours to read and watch everything the place has to offer.

At your exit, you would find a Memory Book where you can comment. At good museums, a visitors’ book is a common sight. You wouldn’t find it everywhere. The Memory Book asks you to write your memory of president Kennedy, his presidency, life, assasination or its aftermath. I read few comments and then penned mine – This well explains America’s, and world’s, fascination with JFK. And justifiably so. If the Museum authorities like your comment, they would publish them at their website. Let me see whether my comment appears there.

Links

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TGIF # 4: Victoria Memorial Kolkata

Victoria Memorial is one of the most famous landmarks of Kolkata. Erected as a memorial for Queen Victoria, the monument is now a popular hang out for local and tourists alike. And like almost everything in Kolkata, it is an excellent value for money. Stroll in the premises, sit and talk, ride on a tanga outside and grap a few Phuchkas (Golgappa/ Panipuri). Here’s a shot taken during my visit to the place more than a year back.

 

Victoria Photoshoot - Panorama View

Victoria Photoshoot - Panorama View

Further Reading:

Official website

Murudeshwara: understated but exhilarating

Temple town by the Sylavan Beach

Temple town by the Sylvan Beach

About the place – Murudeshwara (also called Mrudeshwar, Murudeshwar, Mrudeshwara) has a religious significance, supposedly from Ramayana times (I have heard of a somewhat similar story about Deoghar – don’t know which version to trust). A sylvan beach by the temple, some beach-side eateries, beach activities (boat ride, snorkelling, banana ride, diving, eating fish fry etc – no bikini beach tan though), an island (Netrani) and some shopping (items made of local root) pretty much sums up the place. Ans yes, the name ‘RN Sheety’ reverberates everywhere you go in this town. A good weekend getaway from Bangalore during Oct-Feb.

How did I arrive here – I planned for a trip to Gokarna, but included Murudeshwara in the eleventh hour. So, there was no scope for making amendments to bus tickets. Thus, landed in Gokarna, took a bus to Kumta and then to Murudeshwara. A big gate welcomed me on my arrival to this temple-beach town. Hired an auto (in INR 25 for 3 km) and reached the places of interest – Murudeshwara temple, Shiva statue, Gopura, Beach, hotels, eateries and local market.

Shiva Statue

Shiva Statue

Where I stayed – at RNS Guest House. It has several sea facing rooms (probbaly 55). I was lucky in the sense that my room was at one corner of the building which gave me two balconies – with a breathtaking view of the sea lashing at the rocks on one side, meeting the horizon at another side and kissing the fishermen’s huts at the third.

What did I see – Temple, Gopuram and Beach

Murudeshwara Temple sits atop Kanduka Hill and surrounded by sea on three sides. Photography and/or Videography is not allowed inside the temple. The verandah/porch of the temple presents an exquisite view of the sea and a good opportunity to you to shoot. At the entrance to the temple lies the giant Raja Gopuram – a good 20 stories tall (249 ft) and guarded by life-size concrete elephant pairs on either side. This Gopuram, like its class elsewhere, is rectangular with ground level wooden doors – which is entrance

Gopuram and Lord Shiva

Gopuram and Lord Shiva

to a temple. This is the only gopuram which has a lift and devotees can go right to the top (however, the lift was closed when I went there). It was built under the guidance of Tamil sculptor S K Achar who built “Vivekanada Rock” in Kanyakumari along with his sons Dakshinamurthy and Swaminathan and a big team of 500 Tanjore-based sculptors.

Wikipedia page on Murudeshwara suggests that there is a fort behind the temple. However, none of the people I asked (and I asked plenty of them) knew anything about the fort.

The Beach has visibly two parts – one flanked by the tourists (not large in numbers though) and the other visited by only those who want some ‘private’ space. The beach presents the best example of how the RN Sheety brand has marketed itself in this once sleepy hamlet. The beach is flanked by RNS creations – the Gopura, the statue of Lord Shiva, RNS Hotels (guest house and residencies) and eateries. On the beach, a good 500m from the temple, you’re on your own except for a few children of the local fishermen. While on a  km walk on this stretch, I encountered a group of kids pushing a boat for a fisherman. Took a video and some shots of the boat, fisherman and the kids. Boat Ride is also available at the beach (INR 40 for a 20 min ride). The ride gives the view of the temple and the Shiva statue from the back. Watching the sun going down the horizon was resplendent.

Push Up

Push Up

What did I eat – Veg dinner and breakfast at Naveen Beach Restarant(excellent view of the beach while you eat), non veg lunch at Naveen Beach Resort (only place where you can ‘drink’) and ‘Bangda’ fish fry at a beach-side stall.

TravellersDiary recommends

Take an evening bus from Bangalore to reach Murudeshwara early next morning. RNS group has a good portfolio of hotels where you can stay – RNS Guest House (08385-268990, INR 650) , RNS Residency (268901-03, INR 1100 onwards)and Naveen Beach Resort(260415, INR 1700 onwards). Visit the Temple and the Gopuram at the entrance. Take a walk at the beach, and if you want some privacy, move ahead by half a km from the temple. The spot near the Shiva statue will give you a good sight of the town – with its beach, hills, palm/coconut trees, eateries, boats and hotels in a single charming frame. Go for boat ride. And if you are an adventure enthusiast and are not constrained by pocket, go to Netrani Island – for snorkelling, diving, banana ride. For next day. move on to Kumta (for some sandalwood crafts shopping) or to Gokarna (for beaches and an ancient temple).

More Resources

TravellersDiary Album, Wikipedia page, oktatabyebye page, Sanket’s page, Dancewithshadows page.

Mysore: Palatial Experience

About the place

Also called Mysuru, The City of Palaces is a 3.5 hrs journey by road (150 km) from Bangalore. The Wodeyar dynasty ruled Mysore for almost five and a half centuries. The city is very old and has a lot of structures that are huge and remind you of the days of Rajas. The Wodeyars were patrons of art and culture and evry must-see spot in the town will prove that – the 4 palaces, chamunda temple, art gallery, zoo, lakes, gardens etc. The place is also famous for Mysore Pak (a sweet) and Mysore silk-saree (a garment). Climate is cool (max 33 deg C in summers ie. Mar-Jun) throughout the year. Best time to visit is during the Dasara festival, usually in October.

What to see/do

Mysore Palace: Mysore Palace is one of the most visited monuments in India, even beating Taj Mahal [Source]. Also called Ambi Vilas, the Palace is the center of the city of Mysore. The royal family of Mysore formerly resided here and also presided over the ceremonial meetings. Designed by British architect Henry Irwin, the three storied Palace was constructed in Indo-Saracenic style at the cost of INR 4,200,000 at 1912. There is a large space (comprising a large garden, staff quarters, residential museum, several temples and a place where you can enjoy camel and elephant rides) that surrounds the Palace. The Palace has four gates on four sides. It is open to public from 10 am to 5 pm everyday.

The open spaces are open to photography. But you cannot go inside the Palace with a camera. The security is pretty tight, so don’t try sneaking your camera in any way. You’ll have to shell INR 15 for keeping your camera at a stall outside and INR 20 for Palace entry fee. Also, you’ll have to keep your shoes outside at another stall (INR 0.50 per pair). The decorations, designs and architectural patterns inside the palace will give you several ‘aha’ moments. The view outside from the Durbar will enable you view the palace sprawl. The palace also houses 12 temples built at different periods (oldest: 14th century, latest: 1953), with Someshwara Temple being most famous. You may also visit the armory of the royal family. Sunday evening (7pm to 8pm) the Palace is illuminated with 100,000 bulbs of 100W and looks regal. The entry into palace grounds is free, however you cannot enter inside the palace after 5pm. The view attracts thousands of visitors every Sunday evening.

Jaganmohan (Jayachamarajendra) Art Gallery: It was built by the royalty when their earlier palace was burnt down. It is a three storied palace with stained glass shutters. It was converted to an Art Gallery in 1915. The gallery houses several paintings of Raja Ravi Verma and portraits of the royal family, most of which are life-like. Some paintings depict sari-clad women in their full fledged shape and glow. The gallery also houses several furnitures, artifacts and musical instruments of the royal family. Besides the royal paintings, I liked “Glow of Hope” painting the most. The display arena of the painting is darkened, which heightens the nuances of the painting.

Philomena Church: Inspired by Cologne Cathedral in Germany, this half a century old church is built in Neo-Gothic style. The Maharajah of Mysore laid the foundation in 1933, but it took more than two decades to complete its construction (probably due to independence related turbulence in India). The Church is extremely large and exudes an old-world charm. Someone there told me the twin spires of the Church somewhat resembles Cologne Cathedral (Germany) and St. Patrick’s Church (New York). The main altar preserves the relic of Saint Philomena. There are several paintings on the stained glass windows inside the Church. Camera is not allowed inside, however, you may use the camera just outside the church building (and hence the adjoining picture).

Chamundi Hills: This 1000m high hill is around 10km from Mysore bus-stand (city center). The hill presents a panoramic view of the Mysore city. Atop the hill, is a bus stand and Chamundi Devi (also called Chamundeswari, Chamundeshwari) Temple nearby. There is another route to the Temple – climbing 1000 steps (I only saw the steps, don’t really know any other detail though; may be next time). The temple is very popular, with thousand of devotees thronging the place on weekends and holidays. There are three types of entry – free, INR 20 and INR 100. The temple houses diety of Goddess Mahisasurmardini (slayer of demon Mahisasur), or Durga. The deity is taken on an elephant during the famous Dasara festival. Other must-see stuff are the monolithic statues of Mahisasura and Nandi Bull and Godly Museum. Food (South Indian) is available at some local shops. En route to the Temple, you may see Lalitha Mahal (a palace), race course, Mysore Palace, Rajendra Vilas Palace (momentarily closed to the public due to renovation) and Karanji and Kukkarahalli Lakes.

Vrindavan (Brindavan) Gardens: Almost 15km from Mysore bus-stand, lies this attractive garden beside the KrishnaRajaSagar Dam (KRS Dam built on river Cauvery, or Kaveri). The garden was completed in 1932 and is visited by almost 2 million tourists per year. Entry fee is INR 20 per head, and another INR 50 if you want to take a camera along. The Garden has three terraces comprising fountains and several breeds of flowers (I could only identify two – Bougainvillea and Marigold) and trees. A lake (and a very massive one) divides the park into two. Boats ferry people from one side to another, there’s a bridge as well in case you want to walk. During the evening, there’s musical fountain from 6:30pm to 7:30pm. As the name says, the water is synchronized with the music. The show draws major crowds and traffic comes to a stand still when all the vehicles leave at the show’s end. There’s an adjoining 75 acres fruit orchard as well. Buses ply from Mysore at every 30 min from Mysore local Bus Stand.

Other attractions: Mysore has several other attractions like Karanaji Lake, Rail Museum (houses Maharani’s Saloon), Mysore Zoo (dates back to 1892), Folklore Museum (inside University of Mysore campus) and Oriental Research Institute. These places are recommended if you are on a 2-day tour to Mysore. For single day tourists, only the first five venues are advisable. Other nearby places are Srirangapatna, Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary, Sivasamudra Falls, Talakad and Bylakuppe.

How to get there/local transport

From Bangalore: Regular buses (20 min) from Majestic; Fare is INR 80 on BMTC buses; takes around 3/3.5 hours. There are 9 trains between Bangalore and Mysore (Times from Bangalore – 0430, 0500, 0625, 0700, 0735, 1415, 1815, 2055, 2355 hrs and times from Mysore – 0400, 0710, 0805, 0930, 1005,1045, 1645, 2115, 2355 ). For bookings go here. You may also decide to ride on a bike or have a personal vehicle.

Local Transport: Mysore has two bus stands – city BS and main BS, both near the Mysore Palace. Buses ply from the city BS to every tourist spot – Chamunda Hills, Brindavan Gardens, Philomena’s Church etc. Enquiry office guys are really helpful. Autos are also available and charge reasonably. Alternately, you may rent a taxi for city tour.

Where to stay

If you are on a 1-day tour, no need to stay. If you have to stay, there are several hotels around the bus-stand area, take a call according to your budget.

TravellersDiary Recommendations

One-day trip: Leave Bangalore early morning (this avoids any delay due to traffic and also gives you ample time) and reach Mysore by 9 am. Visit the Chamunda hills first. Stop enroute (ask anyBus conductor for directions) to visit Lalitha Mahal. Then move towards the temple. Have breakfast and drive down to the city. Next, visit Philomena’s Church, Jaganmohan Art Gallery, Mysore Palace in sequence. Next, take a bus (or personal vehicle, but not auto) to Brindavan Gardens. Experience the beauty, boating and musical fountain there. Come back to Mysore city and then back to where you came from.

Two-Day Trip: Do the above and also visit five places mentioned in ‘other attractions’. Alternately, you may want to combine Srirangapatna-Mysore in two days. Leave Bangalore early to reach Srirangapatna at 9am. Follow TravellersDiary recommendations for Srirangapatna and then leave for Mysore. Visit the market (buy Mysore Pak, silk sarees etc) and stay in a hotel.And yes, do take a lot of photographs.

Further Readings

More TravellersDiary pics

Srirangapatna: Tipu Sultan’s Capital

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About the place

Srirangapatna (Also known as Srirangapattana, Srirangapatnam, Seringapatam) is an island town on the Bangalore-Mysore highway (15 Km from Mysore, Karnataka, India) encircled by river Cauvery. The town dates back to at least 894 AD when Chieftain Thirumalaiah built the temple of Lord Sriranganatha. The island town was the capital of Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan – The Tiger of Mysore. The ruined-preserved state of the town today points to its past glory. Climate is pleasant throughout the year. However, November to April is best.

What to see

Daria Daulat Bagh: This was Tipu’s summer palace and was built in 1784 in Indo Saracenic style (other example being Victoria Memorial, Kolkata). The palace is made of teak. There are lush green lawns in surrounding the palace. Inside the palace, several paintings, coins, maps of the days of Hyder/Tipu are reminiscent of the battles of the father son duo. However, photography and videography are prohibited inside. The canal-pipes duo made me assume some kind of fountain, now defunct. Don’t really know whether there is/was any. But captured it in the photograph nevertheless.

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Gumbaz: Inside the tomb Hyder Ali has been laid to rest in the middle and on either side are the tombs of his wife Fatima Begum and son Tipu Sultan. Gumbaz has splendid ebony doors inlaid with ivory. The walls inside are covered with Tipu’s favorite Tiger stripes. Tipu’s wife, sons and relatives are buried just outside the main structure. A guide inside Gumbaz will tell you some tales of the Tipu days, and in return, he expects INR 10/20. According to the guide, the housing structures adjoining Gumbaz served as Guest house for the soldiers. Next to the Gumbaz is a mosque Masjid-e-aksa.

Sangam: 1km from Gumbaz is Sangam, the place where the River Loakpavani joins the River Cauvery. From Srirangapatna you can take an auto to this spot. The way is pretty straightforward, so even if you are on a personal vehicle, it shouldn’t be difficult for you. This is a popular picnic spot and is a beautiful place. From here the river follows into the Mettur Dam in Tamil Nadu. You may tour the river on the circular vessels/handwoven rafts shown in the adjoining picture. The ride becomes adventurous when the Boatman shows his skills and moves the vessel in circular motion. Trust me, it is adventurous, and often scary. We also encountered such vessels (called parisal in Tamil) in my Hogenakkal trip.

Old Fort: Only ruins of the fort-walls remain to date. Vehicles are allowed inside, where there’s a mini township. The fort has 7 must-see places as pointed in the adjoining picture – mosque, temple, dungeon, water gate among others. It is from this Fort that Tipu’s soldiers launched attack against the British. There is an obelisk in the fort in the place where he died, after being betrayed by his own men. Inside the fort there is a mosque and the Ranganathaswamy Temple. You may also see some spots where Tipu’s men stored their gunpowder.

Jumma Masjid: Also known as Masjid-e-Ala, Jumma Masjid was constructed in Tipu Sultan’s reign, in 1784. It is a grand structure with two lofty octagonal minarets. The minarets stand on a high platform with an open court in the front. I also came across something very interesting – 99 names of Allah is inscribed on the walls of the prayer hall on the western side. Also, the ground floor of the Masjid has a porch (or verandah) where many pupils were studying when we reached there. The sight was, well, conducive to study. Oh by the way, I took this picture standing on a moving (and turning!) Tanga.

Ranganathaswamy Temple: The temple was built by Chieftain Thirumalaiah in 894 AD. The temple is enormous and its architecture is a mix of Hoysala and Vijaynagara styles. Vishnu, enshrined as Lord Ranganatha (Ranganathaswamy), is shown reclining on the bed laid out by the serpent Aadi Sesha. The Chaturvimsati (meaning 24 in Sanskrit) pillars before the inner entrance has the cravings of the 24 forms of Vishnu. The temple also has shrines of Krishna, Ranganayaki Thaayaar, Goutama Muni, Alwars and Acharyas of the Vaishnava faith. There is a gigantic Rath, placed just outside the temple. Once a year, devotees pull the Rath and encircle the Temple. The festival is a boiled down version of RathaYatra of JagannathaPuri.

Colonel Bailey’s Dungeon: Colonel Bailey died in these dungeons in 1780AD. It also imprisoned Captain Baird, Captain Rulay, Colonel Brithwite, Samson among others. A guide will tell you : British prisoners were kept standing, with their outstretched hands handcuffed for 22 hours a day, with a resting period of 2 hours. During the siege of Srirangapatna, one cannon rolled back, pierced the ceiling and fell into the dungeon. And to this day it is lying there. Also visible in the top-left of the picture are few steps protruding from the wall. These were used by night-watchmen to climb down during the day. Beyond the walls of the dungeon is the river Cauvery. Rocky riverbed and some vegetation make it a good sight.

Water Gate: People of the Fort township used to fetch water from river Cauvery using this secret gate. This was the gate through which British soldiers entered the fort and killed Tipu. Another version of the story says that the British spilled water in the basement through this gate where Tipu’s army stored gunpowder. This rendered all the gunpowder useless. You may read more about the Battle of Seringapatam here.

TravellersDiary leaves you with some pictures of other must-see places inside the fort. You’ll know enough history when you visit place – through a guide, tanga-wallah or a board outside the must-see place.

Getting there/Town Transport

From Bangalore – Car: Drive down the Mysore Highway via Maddur to Srirangapatna. A taxi to Srirangapatna costs INR 1,200 approx Bus: Services every 20 min from Majestic (Platform No. 17) for Mysore. Step down the bus at Srirangapatnam, 15 km before Mysore. Roam around for 5 hrs and then go to Mysore. This will save at least 4 hours if you had planned to stay at Mysore, then visit the island town and go back to Mysore.

From Chennai: Car: Srirangapatna is a comfortable 460 odd km drive on NH4 to Bangalore via Chittoor and Karnataka State Highway 17 via Maddur.

The town has a bus stand well connected to Bangalore and Mysore. All the buses in this route has a stop here. Local buses ply with 20min frequency. SUVs, Auto and the odd Tanga are available at the bus stop for city tour.

Where to stay

If you are on a single day tour, no need to stay. Return to Bangalore/Mysore on the same day. If you are on multiple days tour, best option is to stay in Mysore. However, if you really want to stay in the town, Karnataka Tourism lists two hotels here – Ambelee Hotel Resort (Tel: 91-8236-52326) and Hotel Mayura River View (91-8236-52114).

TravellersDiary’s Recommendation

If you want to relive certain pages of Indian history, have just one day and live around Bangalore/Mysore, Srirangapatna is the preferred choice. The place will make you feel as if you were a character of the TV series ‘The Sword of Tipu Sultan‘. You can witness numerous characters and settings from the history books – Hyder Ali, Fatima Begum, THE SWORD, Tipu’s fort, Water gate, Colonel Bailey, Daria Daulat Bagh live here.

Reach Srirangapatna at around 10 am and take a tour of the fortress-island town on your vehicle. Autos are also available (@INR 70 per person). However, TravellersDiary recommends renting an odd Tanga (Horse carriage), where you can relive the old world charm. It will cost you INR 40 per person, will take more time than other means, but will give you two different experiences – ample time to see the locales so that the ‘places to see’ seep through, and the ‘tak tak’ tapping sound of the horse’s feet. The roads are good, so it wouldn’t be back-breaking. Plus, the Tanga-walla may agree to be your guide, free of cost. The picture here shows my parents, uncle and maasi on a tanga.

Further Reading

Wikipedia page

More about the Temple

More TravellersDiary pictures here

Srirangapatna on Bangalorebest

P.S. Let me know if the post was useful/useless to you. Bouquets/Brickbats are welcome