Karnal Calling

Manjulika Pramod
Saturday, 30 June 2018

Named after Karna, this walled town isn’t your usual touristy place. Yet it has a lot to offer in terms of history, aesthetics and cleanliness

The town which has always been a popular luncheon stopover enroute Delhi or Manali earns its significance from the Mahabharata period. Named after Karna, the eldest son of Kunti, (also the mother of Pandava warriors), it has been a walled town as far as its history can be traced. It’s also said to have a citadel at one point of time. 

In the present times, Karnal earns its fame for quality production of basmati rice, wheat and milk. Taraori also known as Tarori or Tarawari in Karnal district is famous for its rich Basmati belt and large number of rice mills. Yamuna river forms the eastern boundary of the district and flows from north to south lending lushness and greenery to its topography.  

Until my recent visit, I was unaware of the fact that Karnal is also the institutional hub. The Central Soil Salinity Research Institute (CSSRI), National Bureau of Animal Genetics Resources, Sugarcane Breeding Institute, Directorate of Wheat Research (DWR), Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) and National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI) are some of the institutes that are present here. Also, nearly 40 per cent of country’s agricultural implements and spares are manufactured in this smart city of Haryana.

A peek into its history

What is known of Karnal is that the Marathas established themselves here in 1785 and Raja Gopal Singh of Jind seized it in 1863. To feel the pulse of its history, one can visit the old fort, Devi temple, Cantonment church tower, Miran Sahib’s Tomb and the famous Gurudwara Manji Sahib, which is situated in the busy Sarafa Bazar.

Since I live in Haryana, visiting Karnal was like exploring my backyard. The city is not a usual tourist place but it has many interesting things to boast of. Recently, it has been doing well on the cleanliness aspect. The city has bagged a special award for being the cleanest city in north for its good solid waste management practices and improved sanitation habits. 

7 things to know about Karnal

If you ask the locals for one popular attraction in Karnal, it has to be Karna lake, where they say King Karna used to come for bathing. No one knows whether the city derived its name from the lake or the lake derived its name from the city, but as long as it is associated with King Karna, it holds a special significance. 

There is nothing extraordinary about the lake but it is clean, well-structured and scenic for this small city. One can opt to stay in the resorts nearby or make a quick stop-over while going from Delhi to Chandigarh or Ambala or vice versa. Boating and bird watching can be added fun.

One of the premier institute of India for dairy research adorns the city. The R&D programmes related to food and milk products are one of the best. Students from management schools often visit the institute to gain exposure around cattle yard, different breeds of cattle, buffalos and goat, ways to control animal diet and automatic milking process through machines. This industrial visit helps to provide practical perspective to all the visitors. 

The dairy shop inside the premises is open for all but special permissions are needed to walk around to explore the institute and see the processing and packaging of various dairy products like cheese, butter, khoya and condensed milk etc.

‘Kalasangam’, a competition was organised for beautification of walls of the flyover at ITI Chowk. It was first such attempt by the Karnal Municipal Corporation and the results are inspiring. Scores of artists came together to make some brilliant art pieces. If you have an eye for wall art and graffiti, you will love to walk through the long stretches of colours and creativity. Traditional art and Indian heritage expressed in multi-colours, has not only led to the cleanliness and beautification of the city, but also given it an artistic makeover. 

To get a feel of a town and to identify the richness of a place, a visit to the local market is a must. The markets in Karnal are extremely rustic and basic in their appeal. After indulging in some of the famous local eatery shops which sell Chole Bhature, Kadhi Chawal or flavored milk, one can bring home basmati rice from Karnal.

One of the famous footwear brand of India, Liberty shoes was started from Karnal and has its largest manufacturing facility in the city. One of the bigger units involved in the manufacture of agricultural spares is Karnal Agricultural Industries Ltd. It has the largest manufacturing base in the country. Karnal Bunt, a major disease of wheat was first discovered in 1931 in IARI.

A few years ago, the city had caught everyone’s attention, when Indian origin woman, Kalpana Chawla died in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. Chawla hailed from Karnal. She was the first Indian-American astronaut and first Indian woman to go in space, thus inspiring many females to consider a career in it.

Karnal also offers excellent options for transit stay or city getaway. Palace-like architecture, decorated ambiance, colourfully painted courtyard, rich artefacts, antique elements, designs rooted in Rajasthani culture makes Noor Mahal, a luxury five star hotel stand out from the rest. With luxurious rooms like Khwabgah, serving perfect food and offering the best soothing spa services, this hotel has everything to cater to the needs of a global traveler. It also houses the award winning Frontier Mail restaurant, which is inspired by the train that ran between Mumbai and Peshawar in the period 1928 -1996. A model of the train has been built and people sit and eat inside it.

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