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Friday, 20 November 2020

Post Card From Madhya Pradesh

 It seems like a distant dream, as I sit enclosed in my house during Pandemic, afraid to take public transport. I have been confined to my house since last 8 months, with short trips by car to my sister’s house during week-ends. I love travelling and have been to lot of places, I had plans to explore many more cities during this year, but I digress.

I am happy that I captured some memories on my blog. My MP trip, that I made in November 2019 has been memorable one and I have blogged in 16 parts. 

The tour was of 15 days,  we travelled a total of 2300kms by road plus 2 days of railway travel. Our tour started from Gwalior and ended at Indore, we covered Jhansi, Orchha, Khajuraho, Bhandavghar, Jabalpur, Pachmarhi, Bhojpur, Bhimbetkar, Sanchi, Bhopal, Ujjain , Omkeshwar, Maheshwar, Mundu, Indore.

After a long night journey in the train-Punjab Mail, we reach Gwalior at 4pm. The tour operators come to receive us from the station and we are to stay at  Hotel Landmark. There is lot of excitement, we go to each others room to compare the comfort and we discover that some have good rooms and some are average. Our (I shared room with my friend) room is average. 

The day was spent moving from Gwalior to Khajuraho. On our route, we stopped at Jhansi and Orchha. The bus was comfortable but the roads were bad. Most of the roads are being redeveloped, There is construction everywhere to built better roads, some of the cities of MP have plans to become smart cities. 

We reached late evening at Khajuraho and checked into the hotel- Khajuraho Temple View. There was a beautiful view of lake outside the hotel and on the other side of the lake were the Khajuraho temples.

After driving all day, we reached Bhandarvagarh late evening. I couldn’t see anything, but a narrow road and thick bushes on either side of the road. It seemed like a ghostly town with not a person in sight. The bus moved slowly  over uneven mud road till we reached the beautiful resort called Mogli Resort. We were to stay in the middle of the jungle. 

We spend lot of time on road trip all over MP, but bus journey was not boring. I am reminded of the movie ‘Bombay to Goa’ wherein you meet all kinds of people. Some are dozing, some fast asleep, some noisy, some want to sing, some want to eat. 

Like every state in India have their own hill station, Madhya Pradesh has its hill station at Panchmarhi at 1067 meters, commonly known as Satpura ki Rani. It has also been recognised as UNESCO biosphere reserve.

On our way to Bhopal, we stopped by at a very interesting site called Bhimbetka.  Here you find large rock shelters that have paintings that date back to thousands of years depicting the life of the people through different eras.  This has been now declared as UNESCO world heritage site.

On our route towards Bhopal, we stopped at Bhojpur during evening hours.  We were here to see the Shiva temple called Bhojeshwar temple. The bus had stopped at quite a distance, and we walked through narrow, broken roads, passing through thatched house where villagers still use dried cow dung as fuel for cooking. 

We reached Bhopal late evening and checked into a nice comfortable Raj Bhoj Hotel. Bhopal is the capital city of Madhya Pradesh, known as the city of natural and artificial lakes and is also one of the greenest cities in India.

We drove 46kms away from Bhopal to reach Sanchi stupas that are one of the oldest stone structures in India and important monument of Indian architecture 

Any direction you look, all you see are temples. We visited many temples at Ujjain and all were unique in its own way. We were asked to stick to vegetarian diet, so that we could visit all the temples guilt free.

I consider myself blessed that I have been able to visit the sacred island of Omkeshwar that is shaped like as symbol Ohm- the holiest symbol of Hinduism , it has one of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines of India.

For my women friends, Maheshwar was the most interesting place, you know why? Because women love shopping and they love temples. 

MP is full of rich history and ancient architecture. Most of it has been reduced to ruins or is neglected.  There are beautiful palaces and nature is abundant, but hardly any tourist.  The roads are bad and infrastructure is also poor.

Indore - one of the cleanest city of India, is the last stop of my MP tour. The charm of the city lies in rich cultural heritage preserved over the years. 

I used to blog during my trip, at the end of the day on FB but writing on this blog has taken some time, because of many distractions during this year. But I am glad to have completed the series successfully.

MP Diaries – Part 16 – Indore

Indore - one of the cleanest city of India, is the last stop of my MP tour. The charm of the city lies in rich cultural heritage preserved over the years. 

We visited Kanch ka Mandir, a beautiful Jain temple where I almost lost my balance on the shiny floor. There are intricate glass mosaic everywhere..on the ceiling, on the walls, on doors and even on the ground. I was fortunate to visit the temple during prayers time. My friend (who was with me) is Jain, so she knew all the rituals that are performed during the prayers. The temple is renowned for the several glass paintings and sculptures placed inside the temple. Dating back to the Holkar dynasty, this was built in 1903 by one of India’s industrial pioneers, Seth Hukumchand Jain. The Kanch Mandir is popular for its stunning architecture and grand celebrations held during Jain festivals.

Next we went to see the Lal Bagh Palace, which dates back to Indore’s 19th-century Holkar dynasty. The palace was very tastefully done with Greek paintings on the ceiling and beautiful oil paintings in large spacious rooms. It even had jacuzzi in one of the bathrooms. I envied the women who had lived in these palaces, they must have had a great taste, because there was comfort and style in the interiors of all rooms. The Indian art historian KK Chakravarty wrote that the palace is: 'A blend of Italian villa, French Chateau, traditional motifs and modern conveniences, the Lal Bagh Palace is indeed a statement of riotous Victorian eclecticism not surprising, perhaps, for a ruler who supported the British.'

Our next stop was at Central Museum, The Parmar culture has originated here in Madhya Pradesh and this museum displays lots of statues that are carved out in the style. Most of the statues depicted the Hindu God Lord Shiva and Harihara, Goddess Parvati in many different poses. These belonged to the 11th and the 12th centuries. Then there were art-facts, tools and utensils on display that were used in that era. There was a nice courtyard in the centre of the museum that gave good vibrations with fresh air and sunlight. 

Since we were travelling with Kesari tours, the food was totally arranged by them, throughout our journey. They had their own home chefs who would cook food for us. But at Indore, the home chefs were sent off and we were enjoying the big spread of meals at the hotel where we were staying. But I love to try the street food of every place that I visit and I was deprived throughout our trip.(the organisers were afraid that we would fall sick and therefore they discouraged us from eating street food) 

So, on last day, we sneak out, on our own, to walk down the city streets and enjoy the local cuisine. The Dal Kachoris and Dahi Wadas were amazing and we even picked up for our train journey.

That brings me to the end of my MP tour. Returned back by train from Indore to Mumbai with bags full of memories to last me for lifetime.

Saturday, 8 August 2020

MP Diaries Part 15 Mandu

We have been on road trip for quite some time now, and am beginning to appreciate this part of India. MP is full of rich history and ancient architecture. Most of it has been reduced to ruins or is neglected.  There are beautiful palaces and nature is abundant, but hardly any tourist.  The roads are bad and infrastructure is also poor.

 After a long drive, we enter Mando through four narrow stone wall gates with walled enclosures and bastions. The architectural beauty starts right away, although it is surrounded by yellowed grass and dried pits. I am told that this place comes alive during rainy season when river gets filled up with water and there is greenery everywhere.


We reached our first stop at Jahaz Mahal. Outside the gates, there are much needed nimbu pani, roasted corn and other vendors.  I am fascinated with a strange looking fruit. Its Baobab, (I am told) the famous Khusrani Imli (tamarind) of Mandu. There are many Baobab trees found in the whole of village. I buy one and open the hard skin to reveal while colour flesh, sour and tangy core. It tastes good.


We enter the Jahaz Mahal to the splendour of the architecture. It is noted for its romantic beauty. It looks like a large ship between waters of the Munja and Kapur tanks. It is said that 500 young and beautiful Turkish females in men’s clothes and equal number of armed and uniformed Abyssinian females, used to stand as guards to its right and left sides respectively.


At the entrance there is a beautifully carved wooden door.



We enter the stone gates to series of halls separated by corridors, having narrow rooms at the extreme ends. The view is breath-taking, terrace had projecting pavilions on each sides and hollow islet that must have served as pools.Mughal emperor Jahangir wrote in his memoirs about the wonderful assembly organised on the terrace where they hosted lavish parties, hosted by his wife Noor Jahan, at which guests over indulged in drunken revelry.

The garden and the lake surrounding the palace is well maintained (Thank God) on the right side there is Taveli Mahal. Once upon a time, Taveli Mahal was used as a stable and a guard room. Today it houses a small museum of the Archaeological Survey of India exhibiting artefacts dating from 11th century found inside the fort and painting as well.


I, as usual, always tired of walking, so I sat inside the palace and dreamt of those times when this palace must have come alive with lights of hundred lamps, reflecting on the water perhaps, while my friends go about exploring the whole place.

The guide had lots of stories to tell, mainly about Rani Roopmati, who was pretty poetess and an artist. The story of Roopmati’s eternal love for Baz Bahadur and their musical soirees linger over the Rewa Kund group of Monuments. There was a huge flight of steps leading up to the Roopmati’s pavilion, which I did not take so I missed the architectural beauty of this baradari structure that had twelve doors designed to allow free flow of air.  Also missed the view from the top.


We next went to visit Baz Bahudur palace that had beautiful manicured garden and a spacious courtyard encircled by halls. They are known for their outstanding acoustic features and for hosting performance by dancers and other artistes.


Jamma masjid was our last stop at Mandu. The interior of the entrance porch has beautiful Jali (stone lattice) screen on the sides above which are fine bands of blue enamel tiles. There is a huge prayer hall with many arches and pillars that support the ceiling of three large domes and fifty eight smaller domes.

Opposite Jamma Masjid was an interesting art shop selling local products.


 After lunch we headed back to Indore.

To be continued……

Thursday, 12 March 2020

MPdiaries Part 14. Maheshwar

For my women friends, Maheshwar was the most interesting place, you know why? Because women love shopping and they love temples. 

Maheshwar is the commercial and spiritual capital of Ahilyabai Holkar’s city, and has rows and rows of colorful shops and everybody went crazy shopping for sarees, dupattas, dress materials and stoles. We walked down the narrow lanes, that had fragrance of fried samosas (so very tasty) and we shopped.

But before shopping, we drove up the hill to enter 250-years old Ahilya fort that is perched high above the ghats of Maheshwar. We entered through the north gate, called Ahila Dwar, previously known as Gadi Darwaza because this is the largest gate where the vehicle can enter.

Part of the fort has been converted into a heritage hotel, that is for one who enjoys luxury with scenic beauty and can stay there. We turned right to see the part reserved for tourists.

The big statue of queen Alilya Bai Holkar greets you in all its simplicity of just white sari and shiva linga on her hand. Queen Ahilyabai was a great patron of literature, music, art and industrial enterprises. She is considered as one of the strongest and most powerful women rulers of India.

We started our descent through the stone step passing through different gates. We passed through a gate that had beautiful, small statue of Lord Ganesha perched on top of the temple’s main door flanked by two Maratha dwarpala (doorkeepers)

We passed through a temple that had beautiful architecture and sculptures in black stone.

The climbing down the steps was quite scary, there were no handrails and no support, the steps are quite huge and I needed help to climb down. The view was fantastic from above.

We reached the ghats where boats were parked on banks of Narmada river.

Colorful boats lie moored at the ghats to take the tourists for the cruise down the Narmada river passing along the shores that has palaces and different temples.

We just walked along the shore passing through the different temples on the way till we reached the shopping lanes…

That was quite a distance for me….

To be continued…..

Monday, 24 February 2020

MPdiaries Part 13. Omkeshwar

I consider myself blessed that I have been able to visit the sacred island of Omkeshwar that is shaped like as symbol Ohm- the holiest symbol of Hinduism , it has one of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines of India.

The other jyotirlinga shrines in India are

The Somnath Temple in Gujarat is situated near Veraval in (Prabhas Kshetra) Kathiawad district.
The Mallikarjuna Temple is situated on the Shri Shaila Mountain, on the banks of the Krishna River in the southern part of Andhra Pradesh
Mahakaleshwar Temple is located on the banks of the Kshipra River, in the dense Mahakal forest in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh
Vaidyanath Temple is also known as Vaijnath or Baidyanath. It is located at Deogarh in the Santal Parganas region of Jharkhand.
The Bhimashankar Temple is located in the Sahyadri region of Pune, Maharashtra.
Rameshwar Temple, the southernmost of the 12 Jyotirlingas, is located on the island of Rameshwaram, off the Sethu coast of Tamil Nadu
The Nageshwar Temple also known as Nagnath Temple is located on the route between Gomati Dwarka and the Bait Dwarka Island on the coast of Saurashtra in Gujarat.
The Kashi Vishwanath Temple is located in the most revered site in the world- Kashi!
The Trimbakeshwar Temple is located about 30kms from Nasik in Maharashtra near the mountain named Brahmagiri from the river Godavari flows
One of the holiest pilgrimage sites in India, the Kedarnath Temple is located on the Rudra Himalaya Range at the height of 12000 feet on a mountain named Kedar
The Ghrishneshwar Jyotirlinga is located in a village called Verul, which lies 20 km from Daulatabad, near Aurangabad in Maharashtra.

Omkareshwar Temple is one of the highly revered Jyotirlinga and is located on an island called Shivapuri in the Narmada River in Madhya Pradesh

 I was quite eager to see it.

We crossed the cantilever type bridge(about 1/2km) above the Narmada river to reach the shrine. Loud hymns played on the bridge in the background. There were many hawkers selling all kinds of things, like offerings of flowers and prasadas, some hand crafted toys and artificial jewellery and some fruits. On our return from temple, my friend and I bought sliced cucumber with salt and red pepper…it was very tasty.

We reached the temple after crossing the bridge and there was long queue to go in for sighting of the lingas. I was offered a (short cut to avoid long queue) back gate for closer darshan. It was just for 2 minutes sighting and then we all gathered at another temple outside, behind the main temple.

A proper prayer was conducted by the priest with offering of flowers and sweets.

On route I saw many people dressed in white, with a stick in one hand and bottle of water in other. I learnt that these people take the water from the river and do the Parikarma all around Narmada to fulfil their wishes.

The view from the bridge was really scenic....

To be continued.............

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