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The cow belt, as the lowlands of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh are called, are dotted with ancient, holy cities. Each of them are worth a special visit and many of them are situated not a very great distance away from Lucknow. Also in easy reach of Lucknow are some special, pristine flora-and-fauna habitats like the Nawabganj bird sanctuary and Dudhwa National Park.
Nawabganj Bird Sanctuary
Located 43 km from Lucknow, on the Lucknow-Kanpur Highway, the Nawabganj Bird Sanctuary attracts rare Siberian migratory birds. Some of the birds that wing their way across the continent to get here are the pintain, pigeons, the common teal, pochard, shoveler, purple moor hen, parakeet among others. The best season to spend a few days bird-watching at this lowland park is between October and March.
A living example of Hindu-Muslim unity, Deva Sharief, 25 km from Lucknow, is a religious shrine. The tomb of Syed Haji Waris Ali Shah is located here. During the months of October and November the Deva Mela is held, which attracts thousands of devotees from all over.
Dudhwa National Park
The thick sal forests and grassy lowlands -- typical Terai landscape -- of Dudhwa National Park is home to some unusual animal species. The Sarda river meanders along the border of this park and the Neora and Sohel river run through creating slushy marshland frequented by the swamp deer, Cervus duvanceli. Situated 238 kms from Lucknow in the North Lakhimpur-Kheri district, this national park's star attraction is the Bengal tiger. About 100 or less tigers are believed to still roam this Terai region. The Indian rhino was also introduced here to save it from extinction. Leopards, elephants, bears, muntjacs, gharial, crocodile, and spotted deer inhabit the thick forests too.
A 94 kms drive from Lucknow, it is an important religious centre, famous for its temples of Lalita, Dadhichi Kund, Vyas Gaddi, Chakratrith and Hanuman Garhi.
Allahabad is 129 kms from Lucknow at the confluence of two of India's most important rivers -- the Ganges and the Yamuna. The meeting point of these rivers -- the sangam -- is believed to have great soul- cleansing powers and is a major pilgrimage site. It is considered holier for the fact that the invisible Saraswati river is said to join the Ganges and the Yamuna at this point from underground.
Every 12 years the Kumbh Mela, the world's largest pilgrimage gathering draws millions for a holy dip here. The next Kumbh Mela is scheduled for the year 2001.
Allahabad also has a historic fort built by Akbar, which overlooks the confluence of the rivers and has an Ashoka pillar located nearby.
The Nehru family home, Anand Bhavan, is in Allahabad and is worth a visit. Not many tourists pause in this peaceful city, but it can be interesting and worthwhile stopover.
Located 134 kms from Lucknow on the right bank of the Saryu river, Ayodhya is famous for the temples dedicated to Lord Ram and other deities of the Hindu pantheon. The Hanumangarhi, Ramkot, Nageshwaranath temple, Kanak Bhawan, Sita Rasoi and numerous other places of interest can be visited.
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