Monuments

Madhya Pradesh – The Heart of Incredible India

This year, 2010, I selected Madhya Pradesh for my annual trip of two weeks. Being near to my native, Mathura, MP seemed to be a perfect choice in late winter season. This two weeks trip was planned to explore places in Madhya Pradesh which have some historic and archaeological importance. The input about the places to be visited came primarily from following books:

  1. PENGUIN GUIDE TO THE MONUMENTS OF INDIA VOL 1 BUDDHIST, JAIN, HINDU by George Michell, ISBN 0140081445
  2. PENGUIN GUIDE TO THE MONUMENTS OF INDIA VOL 2 ISLAMIC, RAJPUT, EUROPEAN by Philip Davis, ISBN  0140084258
  3. History of Indian and Eastern Architecture by James Fergusson, ISBN 9788175364097
  4. Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent by Takeo Kamiya, http://www.indoarch.org/
  5. Indian Architecture: Buddisht and Hindu by Percy Brown, ISBN 9780865900356

I will be covering three World Heritage Sites (Khajuraho, Sanchi and Bhimbetaka) and two jyotirlingas (Mahakaleswar and Omkareshwar) during my trip among other noted archaeological sites. This blog will give you an update on the events of each day of my two weeks trip of Madhya Pradesh.

Day 0 (22nd January, 2010) Mathura – Mathura, being my native place, was convenient for me to start for this . I had a train reservation, UP Sampark Kranti (2448), from Mathura to Khajuraho, with scheduled departure at 11.30 PM. I reached the Mathura railway station on time as the train was reported on time. I found at the railway station that all the previous trains from New Delhi region were running late due to very heavy fog. After some time my train was also delayed by two hours. I took shelter in railway waiting room and it was quite warm there. I thought that the waiting time of two hours would pass without notice; however I was not that lucky. After two hours, the train got delayed by two hours more. Later it was delayed more and more and it arrived at last at 7 AM. I was disappointed as I knew at that time one day of my trip was going to be ruined due to bad weather condition.

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Day 1 (23rd January, 2010) Khajuraho – As I have not slept throughout the whole last night, so I wanted to sleep as soon as I board the train. My reservation was in B4 coach. One porter told me that all AC coaches will be in starting so I was standing at the start of the plaform. B1, B2 and B3 passed by, and to my surprise S1 came after B3. I again checked my ticket, and my reservation was in B4 only. I waited for TC and one showed up. He told me that B4 was in last of the train. There was no time for argument why one coach is placed in the last, I had to get into that coach so I ran to towards the end. The stopage of the train was short and I had to get into a II sleeper coach. I thought all coached would be interlinked so anyhow I will reach my coach. To my ill-luck, B4 was not connected internally with other coaches. Now I had landed up into a coach which was not mine and I had to change at next station so couldn’t sleep as well. I got down at Agra after 1 hour and got into correct coach. I came to know that this train splits up at a station and half goes to Manikpur and half goes to Khajuraho. Now this information was neither on the ticket nor it was announced on the station. How will I come to know this automatically, I am sure Ms Mamta Banerjee would surely answer this. Anyway as I was awake whole night so went to sleep soon. This was surely not the start I was expecting for this trip. I got up by about 1 AM, and found that train has not yet reached Jhansi. I have thought that starting at 7 from Mathura; the train might cover up the time delay and might reach by 3 AM to Khajuraho. However this also did not seem to happen as at 1 AM the train is still far from Jhansi. I met a couple in the train so I was able to pass my time, otherwise it would have been very boring being alone. The train reached Khajuraho at 7 PM.
This is a pretty new railway station just opened some 3-4 months back. This was made in shape of a temple with three towers on the top. There is only one train from New Delhi (Hazarat Nizamuddin station) to here. Other trains are just some local trains. There is no train connectivity from Bhopal and Indore yet.
It was dark already outside, and I was thinking that I might be able to get into Light & Sound Show of Western Group of Temples, which starts at 7.45 PM in Hindi Language. I took an auto to check into my hotel so that I could make up for that show. My hotel, Casa Di Williams, was very near to the Western Group of Temples. I put my luggage and came out of hotel for the light and sound show. I got the ticket, the ticket cost was Rs 100. I went inside and found that chairs are put in the open garden without any roof or terrace. It was pretty cold out there. This Light & Sound Show is very famous among the tourist. It talks about the history of Khajuraho, the temple building activities taken up by Chandela rulers and how it went into oblivion and rediscovered by British captain T. S. Burt. The voice is given by famous Indian cinema actor Amitabh Bacchan. The show was of about 50 minutes. As I haven’t eaten much during the day in the train, so I was feeling very hungry. After the show I went to Raja Café, just in front of Western Group of Temples. This is the best restaurant as per Lonely Planet guide book. I went to first floor of this restaurant. Some tables were in open and some under the terrace, but all those under terrace tables were occupied, so I settled for open sky table. Though it was described as best restaurant in town, however I found the service extremely slow. I saw only one waiter handling all the tables. I placed my order for dinner and was waiting, I spotted my hotel owner arriving there. He also saw me and came to my table. He told me that he is a regular at this restaurant. He also told me that service was not this bad some months back, but as the old manager has left so the new management is not able to keep up those standards. He came for drink with a bottle and asked me to join him. Usually I do not prefer drinks on my tour trips; however he was so adamant on his request that I had to give in. But I took very small amounts so that I could give him company. The food was pretty good there and quite economical as well. I finished my dinner by 10 PM and took leave from the hotel manager. I went to sleep as soon as reach my home, as I was already pretty tired of long journey and next morning I wanted to start early so that I could cover up the lost day somehow.

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Day 2 (24th January, 2010) Khajuraho – I was staying in hotel, Casa Di Williams, as the reviews were pretty good about this hotel in travel sites. However it did not meet my expectations.

I got up early in the morning and reached Western Group of Temples by 8 AM. This is a ticketed monument and there is a book shop just inside the gate, behind the ticket counter. You can purchase guide books, published from ASI (Archaeological Survey of India), about Khajuraho and other Indian tourist places. The Western Group of Temples is the main tourist attraction in Khajuraho. You might take some 2-3 hours in taking a tour of all the temples inside the enclosure. Lakshmana, Vishvanatha and Kandariya Mahadeva are the large temples, others are smaller. I was out of this site at 1 AM.

I went to Raja café for my lunch. There is an ASI museum in front of Western group, but I first wanted to finish other monuments of Khajuraho. You can either hire a bicycle or an auto rickshaw to visit other monuments. If you don’t mind walking some 2-3 kms then you can enjoy your walk as all the temples are within the radius of 2-3 kms. As I wanted to cover up my lost day, so I hired an auto rickshaw for Rs 250 to visit Eastern and Southern temple groups. I first went to Jain temples which lie in Eastern group. These temples are under control of ASI however now a Jain trust has taken the control of nearby place around the temples. Most of the guides will only talk about three temples here, however you will find some 12-13 temples here. This place is now known as a Jain Teerthsthana but only three temples are of importance historically. These are Adinatha, Parsavanatha and Shantinatha. There is a Jain museum at the gate of the complex. Photography is allowed inside, and it contains many good statues of Jain Teerthankars, Yakha/Yalkshi and Jain Goddesses. After visiting Jain temples, I went to Ghantai Temple. Nothing mush is left of this temple except the grand pillars. There are bells sculpted on the pillars, so it is called Ghantai Temple.

Next I went to Brahma Temple which also lies within Eastern group. This is a very small temple just side of a street. The main door is closed, however there is a window open at the backside. Inside the temple is a Shiva Lingam with four heads on the four sides. This temples is mistakenly called is Brahma temple, due to four heads on lingam, but in really it is a Shiva temple. Next I went to Javari Temple of Eastern group which is dedicated to Vishnu. This is a large temple in comparison with Brahma Temple. Nearby to this temple is situated Vamana Temple. This is one of the few temples in India where Vishnu is placed in sanctum in form of Vamana (dwarf) incarnation.

My next stop was Southern Group of Temples. The first temple was Duladeo Temple which is the latest addition among the Khajuraho temples as we see Deccan architecture in this temple. This temple faces west so it’s best to be visited after 3 in the noon. Next stop was Chaturbhuja Temple which is located near Jatkari village. This is only local temple where you will find no erotic sculptures. The last temple was recently excavated Bijamandala Temple. Photography is not allowed here as the temple is still not reconstructed fully. There were some 18 mounds identified for further excavations in Khajuraho some years before. The only mound excavated till now is Bijamandala which resulted in a grand and huge temple which was started but never completed. It was already 5 PM when I finished with Eastern and Southern temple groups.

My next destination was Chaunsath Yogini Temple and Lalguna Mahadev Temple. Both the temples are located within the Kahjuraho temple town near the large tank. I left my auto rickshaw as it could not go to these temples as no road exists. I walked down the tank side and reached Chaunsath Yogini Temple. Nothing much is left of this temple except some shrines out of 64 original shrines for each yogini. Three statues were found at this temple and they are now put in the ASI museum. There was no map showing Lalguna Mahadev temple so I took help from a local lad of age about 6-7 years. He showed and accompanied me to that temple which is about 1 km far from Chaunsath Yogini Temple inside the village. He told me stories about his cricket match which he won by hitting six fours in six balls. He told me that in his school, dresses are only given to girl students but not to boy students. He also invited me to his house; however I had time constraint so I had to politely refuse the offer. The Lalguna Mahadev is a small temple but one of the oldest among the Khajuraho group. Chaunsath Yogini and Lalguna Mahadev temples are constructed in granite stone, but other temples are in sandstone. Granite was used in earlier temples, sandstone came in later stages. I gave Rs 10 to that lad and took leave to go back to Khajuraho main market.

My next day planning was to go to Nachna and Bhumra. However I had no idea how to reach to these places. My hotel staff gave me a contact number of very good guide who as per him knew all around Khajuraho. I talked to Mr. Brijendra Singh Mama, the guide, and he told me that no driver in Khajuraho knows the way to Bhumra. Also this Bhumra is very interior into the jungles so it’s not frequented by visitors. However Nachna will be possible, but tough to reach. I told him that I prefer to use public conveyance and travel economically. He then told me to take bus to Satna and get down at Devendra Nagar stop and from there, check if some jeep or auto rickshaw can take you to Nachna, as it is some 25 kms from there. With this information I went to bust stand to enquire about the bus to Satna and came to know that first bus leaves at 8 AM. After this information, I thought to explore the local market for some souvenirs. I found some magnets and plaster-of-paris sculptures, which I bought. Then I spotted a shop, Khajuraho Handicrafts Emporium. This is located in main market, known as Gol Market. This was a big shop, however I entered inside. Usually I do not go into such big shops as common conception in my mind is that these guys charges unnecessarily high. But this conception was changed in this particular shop. I found that the things which I have purchased are cheaper here, thought I did purchase with some bargaining. I saw that the shop owner, Mr. Manish Jain, was asking about the nationality of one foreigner tourist. When he came to know that she was from Laos, he asked for some coins. The tourist told that they have no coins only paper currency. Then he asked for smallest denomination as it’s his hobby to collect currencies. The tourist gave him the currency worth Rs 10 in Indian currency; however she refused to take Rs 10 from Manish. He then offered her a key chain worth Rs 15 for this favor. I was just watching this incident and it was really touching. I started chatting with Manish and we discussed many things. Then I told him about my Nachna issue, and he told me that he himself did not know about this place. He felt sorry for this as he really loves Khajuraho and knows many things about it. Then he called some of his friends and came to know that hiring a taxi from Khajuraho would be the best option. I also came to know that Nachna is now called as Chaumukhnath. As the taxi would cost me Rs 1200-1500, so I did not think about it much. Anyway, Manish asked me to meet him before I leave Khajuraho and I took leave from him.

After this I went for my dinner to Blue Sky Restaurant. This is near Raja Café and they have restaurant at second floor. The service here was also poor and rates were high compared to Raja Café. I ordered chicken biryani, and it was one of the worst I had in my life. As I was not satisfied with my dinner so I had little roadside snacks on the way returning to my hotel. I reached by 10 PM and slept soon to get up early in the morning.

Khajuraho Town – Khajuraho – Playground of Surasundaris
Khajuraho Album – Part 1 Part 2

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Day 3 (25th January, 2010) Nachna – I got up at 7 in the morning as I had to catch the 8 AM bus to Devendra Nagar. I reached at the bus stand and met the conductor as he was already there before the bus. I discussed with him my Chaumukhnath exertion and he told me that he would help me from Devendra Nagar in arranging something to reach Chaumukhnath. Nachna is now called Chaumukhnath so both the words are used interchangeably. Devendra Nagar is some 60 kms from Khajuraho. He also told me that the bus will reach Devendra Nagar by 10 AM. However the bus took much time at Panna and reached Devendra Nagar at 10.30 AM. I learnt a lesson that never believe the bus conductors about the timings. As there are only private buses running in Madhya Pradesh so they stop at any place and only start when full. Anyway the conductor introduced me to a tea vendor there who would help me in my further journey. That tea vendor told me to go to Saleha, 25 kms from there, and from there I have to find conveyance. Chaumukhnath is just 10 kms from Saleha.

I got the bus to Saleha at 10.40. Inside the bus I started talking with locals to know about the conveyances available to Chaumukhnath. I met one PWD employee, Mr. P. K. Jain. He told me that he would help me out as he was posted in Saleha. He said that if there was no conveyance then he would take me on his scooter. I reached Saleha at 11.30 AM. We enquired about the conveyance and one jeep operator asked for Rs 400. This was too much for me, so Mr. Jain took out his scooter. He told me that he has forgotten his wallet at home so I had to fill up the petrol. This was ok with me as he was doing a great favor to me. There were two buses from Saleha to Devendra Nagar, one at 1.15 PM and another at 4 PM. I had to take this 1.15 PM bus as I had to be at Khajuraho by 6 PM to catch my Bhopal bus. Mr. Jain asked me to fill up petrol of Rs 200 as if I missed the 1.15 bus then he would drop me at Devendra Nagar on scooter. I paid for the petrol and then started to Chaumukhnath. I reached the temple complex by 12 noon.

There are two temples in the temple complex of Chaumukhnath, one is Chaturmukh Temple and another is Parvati Temple. Chaturmukh Temples is with a tower and housed a Shiva Lingam on which four heads are carved on its four sides. Because of this only this place is known as Chaumukhnath (lord with four heads). One head has on open mouth, but other three are in composed figure with close lips. Chaturmukh temple is still in use and people come from far places to pay their homage. There is recent construction in form of a mandapa at the entrance of the temple. This was done to accommodate pilgrims in front portion. Parvati temple is an earlier creation then Chaturmukh, and is flat roof structure. It has a complete door made in Gupta style architecture with river goddesses, Ganga and Yamuna, on the lower portion of the door jambs. I finished my work by 12.30 then Mr. Jain asked me to visit nearby Jain temple. He told me that he did not eat before offering prayer, but today he was going to skip it as he was already late. In such circumstances he offered prayer in his office in front of pictures/photos and take food. But as now he has come to Chaumukhnath so he would like to go to the temple. I had no issues with this and we went to Jain temple. After that we started back to Saleha and reached in time to catch my 1.15 bus.

It was a mini bus and was very crowded. It was stopping at each stop to get more and more passengers. Once I told the conductor not to take more passengers as it could not accommodate anymore and instead take fare of four people from me, but all went to deaf ears. I was just praying that bus should not topple, however I think that it was their daily job and they might know the capacity and power of the bus. Anyhow I reached Devendra Nagar by 3 PM and got a bus to Bameetha. From Bameetha, you can get easy conveyance to Khajuraho and it 10 kms from there. I reached Bameetha by 4.30 PM and took an auto rickshaw to Khajuraho. I wanted to go to Incredible India office and the office closes by 5 PM so I told the driver if he could hurry. I reached the office on time and the officer was inside.

As I had a tough journey in finding and getting to Nachna (Chaumukhnath) so I wanted to avoid such things in future. There was one place to visit, called Eran, on my list and I had no idea about that place. So I thought that Incredible India office might be of some help. I met Mr. Ajit Sing there and he was very much impressed when he heard about my exertions and interest in Eran. Unfortunately he has heard about the place but was not aware where it is located. However he was very generous and wanted to help me out so he took out all road gazetteers on Madhya Pradesh to look out for Eran. He searched a lot but did not succeed. It was very surprising that road gazetteer does not mention about Eran. Then he called up some friends but no results. He was very sorry being of no great help to me, and then he requested me to inform him if I was able to locate Eran so that he could help tourists in future. He gave me a CD of Incredible India and some general posters and brochures. It was great meeting with him and I left the office as I had to catch my bus at 6 PM. I took and auto and checked out from hotel, on my way to bus stand, I stopped at Khajuraho Handicrafts Emporium to meet Mr. Manish. I found that he has left for home, so I gave him a call and updated on my exertion to Nachna. Then I left for the bus stand and the bus came by 6.45 PM. I took my berth and looked forward for my journey. However my bad luck did not leave me and I had a horrible journey from Khajuraho to Bhopal. Please read here for that one night journey.

Nachna Town – Nachna – Imprints of The Guptas
Nachna Album – Album Link


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Day 4 (26th January, 2010) Bhojpur and Bhimbetka – I arrived Bhopal at 8 AM. After the horrible experience of the last night, it was very great felling reaching Bhopal. However I had little disappointment over one day lost in Khajuraho as otherwise I would have visited Kalinjar Fort. Anyway all’s well that ends well and I was in Bhopal. The bus dropped me near the railway station. I was aware that my hotel was near to railway station only, however i did not know the exact location so I took an auto to the hotel. The auto guy asked for Rs 15 and just dropped me in the opposite street some 100 meters away from the spot where the bus dropped me. I was very annoyed and told the auto person that you could have told me that this hotel is just down the street but he was not affected. I did not want to start my day with a bad note so I just gave him money. I checked into my hotel and had a nice bath. Then I went out to my day’s exertions. Today I had planned to visit Bhojpur and Bhimbetka. I checked with hotel reception and they told me that Bhojpur is possible by public conveyances however Bhimbetka might be little tough. So I thought to start with Bhojpur and later see how I can accommodate Bhimbetka.

Bhojpur is some 28 kms from Bhopal. The bus stand was nearby hotel and I got a bus to Bangrasia. Local people told me that from Bangrasia I will get shared tempo to the temple. The bus takes an hour to reach Bangrasia. From Bangrasia, I got a tempo which took me to the temple in 20 minutes.

The Bhojeshwar Temple is still in use so many pilgrims come there. There is a nice picnic park as well so people come here for picnic purpose as well. This temple was commenced by legendary Raja Bhoj (1010-53) of Parmar dynasty. However this temple was never completed, however scholars rate it as one of the finest examples of contemporary temple architecture. This temple housed the tallest Shiva Lingam, height of 2.3 m with circumference of 5.4 m, of the country.

I finished my work by 12 noon and got on a tempo back to Bhojpur crossing, costing Rs 10, from where I had to take bus to Obaidullahganj to reach Bhimbetka. Bhimbetka is some 47 kms from Bhopal. You will get the buses from Bhopal, which will pass through Bhojpur crossing eventually. I got the bus and reached Obaidullahganj in an hour. I checked with local people and they told me that there is no public conveyance available to the Bhimbetka caves. The available public conveyance could drop me at the Bhimbetka entrance, which is some 6 kms from Obaidullahganj, but from there caves are located some 4 km away. This is the same information as in my guide book, Lonely Planet. Then I asked to some taxi people and one person agreed in Rs 250 for to and fro trip. We reached Bhimbetka gate in 20 minutes. There is a nice MP tourism hotel at the gate near the railway crossing. Bhimbetka caves have no entry charge from ASI, however forest department levies charges on all vehicles and people. For a four wheeler, Rs 50, and for each person, Rs 10. I paid the charges and we reached at the entrance of the cave complex.

Bhimbetka has the largest collection of prehistoric art in India, and it was designated as a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2003. The caves are spread over seven hills in 25 sq kms area, with over 700 rock shelters out of which 500 has prehistoric paintings. Bhimbetka was discovered by the eminent archaeologist VS Wakankar in 1958. The caves stand a testimony to the continuous human habitation in the region for over 5,00,000 years. Only 15 caves are open for visitors now.

I came back to Obaidullahganj by 4 PM and got the bus to Bhopal soon. I reached Bhopal by 5.30 PM. I went to my hotel and freshened up for my evening. In the evening I have planned to explore the eateries in Bhopal so I went to the New Market, the main market of Bhopal. I spotted a faluda wala and had kesar pista faluda. It was pretty good as I usually do not get good faludas in Bangalore. Next I spotted a chat & sweetshop, so I went in and had pani puris. It was not that great but ok. I read from my guide book, Lonely Planet, that Bapu ki Kutia is a very famous vegetarian restaurant, and I went for it. It was located at one end of the New Market, and there was pretty heavy waiting time. When you visit this restaurant, be ready for wait as this is pretty crowded place. I got a table in some 25 minutes and I placed my order. The food was ok, not so great and I felt little disappointed. I did not know whether it was with the food items which I ordered or the restaurant was just hyped. Anyways, as I had eaten enough so took a stroll back to my hotel. I walked for some 5 minutes but then I found that hotel is still far away so I boarded a city bus and reached the hotel. It was already 10 PM by then. I read a little and wrote little on my blog and then went to sleep at 11.

Bhojpur Temple – Bhojpur – Legend of Raja Bhoj Continues…
Bhojpur Album – Album Link

Bhimbetka Caves – Bimbetka -A Dive Into The Stone Age
Bhimbetka Album – Album Link

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Day 5 (27th January, 2010) Sanchi – My train was at 8 in the morning from Bhopal to Sanchi. It took about an hour to reach there. Just out of the station, there is Mahabodhi Society of Sri Lanka Guest House. There new building was recently opened in November, 2009. I have already called those people some days back to book a room for me. I got a pretty decent room, equipped with all necessary amenities, in this new building. As I have planned to stay in Sanchi for 4 days so the owner, being very kind to me, gave me room on discounted rate. I have seen the hotel rates in Madhya Pradesh are pretty reasonable compared to Tamilnadu and Karnataka. The stupa complex is just some 0.5 km from this hotel. It was already 9.30 when I started for the stupa. I spotted a handicraft shop on the way just before the ticket counter. Just had a look around and met the owner, Mr. Rafi Roshan. He previously had shop in Hotel Lake View Ashoka in Bhopal and now had shifted to Sanchi. We agreed to meet on my return from the stupa complex. Now there is single ticket, which can be purchased from any ticket counter, which is valid for 15 world heritage sites in India with validity of some 1 year. So you can buy ticket to see monuments at Khajuraho in Sanchi itself. This is pretty good move from tourism department.

The stupas are located on a hill so you need to walk up to the hill. There is a motor able road till the hill top or you can take up some 50 steps after little walk up on the hill to reach the top. There is a nice ASI bookshop on the entrance of the complex from where you can buy a guidebook. This guidebook is very helpful as this tells all about the sculptures on each gate of the main stupa, The Great Stupa. The view of the complex was very awesome; many huge monuments nestled around a nice park with green grass. When you enter the complex, you will recognize The Great Stupa, as this is the biggest monument in the complex. This stupa has four gates in four directions. Every gate is exquisitely carved in all sides, telling various stories related to Buddha’s life. The guide book will explain all the sculptures on the gate so that you can see which story is depicted there. You will find this story telling interesting. Around this main stupa are located other monuments of the complex. The guide book also has a map so that you can find your monuments easily. There are some temples of Gupta period (5th-6th century AD) also in the complex and worth visiting. There are other stupas as well, but not as huge as The Great Stupa. Stupa 2 is also worth visiting as its surrounding boundary is carved pretty well with Buddhist symbols. There are many Viharas, monasteries, also to be seen in the complex. Some pillars of Ashok’s time are also in the complex. You should set aside a full day to look around this complex. I did not visit the Stupa 2 and other western side monuments as I kept those for the last day. Instead I wanted to visit the ASI museum so I headed to the museum by 1 PM from the complex as the museum closes by 5 PM. The museum is on the main down the hill. Photography is not allowed so it was disappointing. This museum houses the Ashokan pillar capital with four seated lions. I never understand the concept of no photography as in some of the ASI museums it is allowed and in some it is not. Can you imagine that you go to Louvre in Paris and there is a signboard of no photograph in front of Monalisa!! Or you go to Vatican City and they say no photograph of Sistine Chapel!! However I could not argue the same with those ASI bureaucrats so I just had a round around the museum and came out.
I took my lunch at nearby Retreat Cafeteria, run by MP Tourism. Also I asked the way around Sanchi and conveyances. I finished my lunch by 2 and decided to cover Udaygiri Caves in Vidisha. Vidisha is just 10 kms from Sanchi and regular bus service is available. It takes some 30-40 minutes to reach Vidisha. Udaygiri caves are some 5 kms from the city and there is no public conveyance available so you need to arrange some auto rickshaw or taxi. I took an auto for Rs 100 to visit the caves and Heliodorus pillar.

First I visited the caves. There are some 20 caves carved into a sandstone hill in 4th-5th century AD. Cave 19 and 20 are closed now for visitors due to their falling roofs. Caves are numbered as per the sequence on the hill. Cave 5,6,17 & 13 are of interest as they are carved exquisitely. Cave 5 houses a huge Varaha (boar) image of Vishnu and cave 13 houses Vishnu lying on his serpent.

Next I visited Heliodorus Pillar, locally known as Kham Baba. This is located near Bes river some 3 kms from the city Vidisha. An inscription it reads that it was a Garuda Pillar, erected in honor of Vasudeva by Heliodorus, a resident of Taxila, who has been sent to the court of Bhagabhadra as an envoy of the Indo-Bactrian monarch, Antialkidas. The inclusion of name Antialkidas dates the approximated erection of the pillar to 140 BC. This is a very important historical record, revealing both the relations that existed between region and the Greek kingdoms of Punjab, and the remarkable fact that Greek has become a follower of Hindu god Vishnu.

I reached Sanchi by 6 PM and met Mr. Rafi. We talked for some time and shared our views on many different things. We decided to stay in touch till my stay in Sanchi and I took leave from him for my dinner. I had dinner at the bus stand dhaba and food was pretty ok there. This restaurant was mentioned in my guide book, Lonely Planet, as well. I went back to my hotel and revisited the next day’s plan. A nice sleep is pretty much required if you want to survive for a long trip without much tiredness, so I have planned accordingly that I get a night sleep every day. With the thought of better day tomorrow, I went to sleep.

Sanchi Town – Sanchi – Buddham Dhammam Sangham
Sanchi Album – Sanchi Monuments Album

Vidisha Town – Vidisha – At the Confluence of Bes and Betwa
Vidisha Album – Vidisha Album

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Day 6 (28th January, 2010) Gyraspur – Gyaraspur is about 41 km from Sanchi. Last night I enquired about buses while returning from Vidisha. As Vidisha is a big town so most of the buses you will get from here only. There is direct bus service from Vidisha to Gyaraspur on regular intervals. I got up early and took a bus to Vidisha and reached there by 8 AM. I soon got the bus to Gyaraspur. The bus took some 2 hours so I reached Gyaraspur by 10 AM. There are some 4-5 monuments in Gyaraspur. The town Gyaraspur derives the name from the fair which is held on 11th month (Gyareh) of the Indian calendar. This town was of great importance during medieval period however now there are only ruins of temples of 9th-10th century.

Near the bus stand is situated Atha Khambha. Only the pillars of this 9th century temple are remaining, there are eight pillars in the temple portico so the name Atha Khambha (Eight Pillars). The pillars are carved very finely and the doorway of the shrine is in typical Gupta architecture pattern.

Mala Devi Temple is some 1.3 km up on the hill, on the opposite road from this Atha Khambha. This 9th century temple is scooped half into rocks of the hill. This is a ruined temple, where Jain images are enshrined in the sanctums. These images might have been placed after the construction of the temple. The roof of the temple is damaged and lots of beehives are there. So be careful when you shoot with your camera. I found this when bees were disturbed with my camera flash and some tried to come near me. I quickly ran out of their reach, otherwise it would have been very painful.

Near the bus stand, towards Vidisha Road is located Bajra Matha. This is a 10th century temple. This temple is in tri-ayatana form, that’s it contains three shrines. These shrines now houses Jain images, however previously these were for Sun, Vishnu and Shiva.

Some 1.6 km away in south from the bus stand is Daikhinath Stupa, located on Daikhinath Hill. This is a 6th-7th century structure and is very ordinary shrine. As per Gazetteer of Monument Part 1 by George Michell, there were four seated Buddha images around the circular stupa, however there are no more there now. I am not aware if these are moved to some museum nearby.

I finished all this by 12 noon and found that there was a bus at 12 to Pathari from Gyaraspur. As Pathari was in my itinerary so I thought to finish this that day itself. The bus hadn’t come by 12.10 so I thought to buy a water bottle from nearby shop. I took some 5-6 minutes in this and when I returned I found that bus just left. It was quite disappointing as the next bus was at 3 from there. I enquired from locals about the conveyances options to reach Pathari and got to know that I might get a bus from the Sagar crossing, locally called as Chauraha. It was some 12 km from there and I got a bus soon to reach there. At Sagar crossing I found that next bus to Pathari was the same which will come from Gyaraspur. I again asked locals there and they told me to reach Rasulpur crossing and there I might get some conveyance. I soon got the buss which was going towards that crossing. I asked the conductor inside and he told me to get down at Tyonda. Now I had two contradicting information, locals at Sagar crossing asked to reach Rasulput and conductor in the bus told to get down at Tyonda. However conductor took precedence as he was the person travelling daily and I got down at Tyonda. It was some 20 kms from Sagar crossing. There again I found that the next bus is at 4 only and it was the same bus which was coming from Gyaraspur. I think that bus conductor understood that I wanted to reach Pathari and time was not important for me so he thought that anyway I will get a bus at Tyonda. But my issues was to reach Pathari as soon as possible so that I can reach back Sanchi before dark. Anyway I again enquired local people at Tyonda and they told me to reach Rasulpur crossing as there is a road going towards Pathari and I might get some lift. Now the issue was how to reach Rasulpur as there was no bus coming soon to get there. So again I was dependent on hitch hiking. After some 20 minutes, I got lift on a bike and he dropped me at Rasulpur crossing. At this crossing, people told me that the bus will come only near 4 PM but if someone is going in that direction then take the lift. There was one person on bike with two other riders. He was so kind that he said that if I can accommodate myself then he had no issues. But four people on single bike was somewhat bizarre so I refused his offer gracefully. Soon after that one person gave me lift on his bike. He was an LIC agent in that area. It was some 12 km to Pathari from Rasulpur crossing. We talked on the way about many things, such as politics, parties like BJP and Congress, insurance awareness in the villages and many more.
I got off at the bifurcating point of the two roads, one goes to Badoh and other goes to Pathari. Badoh and Pathari are twin villages just separated by a pond. I got off at that point as there was one monument, ancient caves where statues of Sapta Matrika (seven goddesses) were carved. These figures are the most ancient monument in this town, dating 5th century.
Then I moved ahead on the road to Badoh and found a Jain Temple on the way. It was a pretty big Hindu temple housing Jain images in its shrines.

Then I asked a local for Gadarmal Temple and he told me the way. There is one road going interior into village just side of Gadarmal Temple. Gadarmal Temple is just 5 minutes walk from there. This is 9th century temple and called Gadarmal as it is believed that this is constructed by a Gadaria (herder).

Then I moved onto Dashavatara Temple, which is on the side road off the Badoh road. There are many small-small temples on this site so called Dashavatra as there might be some ten temples sometime here housing ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu. A ruined Varaha (boar) statue is there in front of the main temple.

The last monument to see was a pillar in Pathari village. It was already 4 PM by now and I wanted to rush to finish this last monument. On my way to village Pathari, I came to know that the last bus from Pathari goes at 4.30 PM. I did not have much time and I also did not want to miss this pillar as this is one of the most ancient pillars found in India. I walked fast and ran a little and reached the spot. As per an inscription, this Garuda Column was erected by a Pratihara ruler in 869 AD.

I took the photos quickly and rushed to the bus stand. I was fortunate enough to get the bus on time. Now this bus was not to Sanchi but it would drop me at a place called Bareth. From Bareth, I would get a passenger train an 6 PM. There were many people travelling in this bus whom had to catch this train. I met a person who told me that there were very few instances when that bus had not made on time for the train. However the bus reached the station at 6.15 and to my good luck the train was late. I purchased a ticket from Bareth to Sanchi, costing just Rs 10. I reached Sanchi by 9 PM, as the train got delayed as it had to pass all the fast trains. I had dinner at Sanchi after a very adventurous day. I thanked all those people who gave me lift so that I could make on time and slept.

Gyaraspur Town – Gyaraspur – Heritage of Excellence
Gyaraspur Album – Gyaraspur Monuments Album

Badoh-Pathari Town – Badoh-Pathari – A Tale of Twin Villages
Badoh-Pathari Album – Badoh-Pathari Monuments Album

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Day 7 (29th January, 2010) Eran – Today was going to be an exciting day as I have planned to search for Eran. In last few days, I have enquired with many locals in Sanchi, Vidisha and during my journeys in Badoh, Pathari and Bareth. I learnt many paths to reach Eran, however last night I met a person in train from Bareth who had been to Eran recently. He told me to reach Mandi Bamora railway station via train from Sanchi. From there I can go to Eran as it is some 12-15 kms. There is a direct train from Sanchi to Mandi Bamora at 8.40 AM. I took this train and reached Mandi Bamora by 11 AM. You need not to go to main platform but go to platform 2 and from there to main road. I reached there and found there was no direct bus to Eran. I can reach at most to Khurai crossing from where Eran is 5 kms. I talked with a pan shop owner there and told about my wish to visit Eran. I told him that I can offer about Rs 100 if some one who has bike can take me there and back and petrol charges extra. He started using his resources and told me that it would cost Rs 200. He also told me that he was doing this as I was a guest to his town. Charging Rs 200 and also showing that he was doing a social service, what a paradox! Anyway I had to get my work done and he had an opportunity to mint money. I don’t blame him as many of us do such things in such circumstances and we can see these kind of behavior across our life span. He arranged one of his friend who would take me on his bike and drop me back. He then himself also came with me so three people on a bike. I reached Eran just before 12 as I wanted to be there before noon so that I could take good photographs as Sun would be in right position. Eran is a small village but historically important. Eran was a major town on the road from Koshambi to Pratishthan (Pethan) via Vidisha, Ujjain and Maheswar. As per Gazetteer of Manuments by George Michell, there were two sites in Eran for archaeological importance. One site of having a pillar and another having ruins of three temples. But when I reached there, I found that all the monuments are now within a single complex. The complex is under maintenance of ASI. I met Mr. Rajput, the caretaker of the complex, and he told me the negligence from the department towards this site.

The pillar is 13m height and of period 484 AD. An inscription on this tells that it was erected in the reigh of king Buddhagupta. The capital on the pillar is mostly intact, consisting of a statue of Vishnu and Garuda standing back to back. There is a chakra (wheel in between the statues).

Varaha (boar) is on same lines as of Khajuraho. It is a sandstone monolith with whole Hindu pantheon carved upon its body. The goddess Bhu is shown near one of its tusk. This sculpture belongs to 5th century AD.

Narasimha statue is just lying on one platform. This platform was made by some district official, not by ASI. The statue is broken into two pieces, legs and body separate. This sculpture is dated of 5th century AD.

Vishnu temple is only temple here which has survived its doorway and roof. It has a huge Vishnu statue in its sanctum. The doorway is in distinct Gupta style with river goddesses on its door jamb and interwoven sculptures all around the door jambs. This temple belongs to 9th century AD.

There are many stones & pillars lying around the complex. Some stones have exquisite carvings as well. It seems to me that all these stones and pillars were of the temples and are just put here when these temples were relocated to this new site. It would have been better if the temples could have been reconstructed utilizing all those stones and pillars. Mr. Rajput was pointing towards this negligence only. In my eyes, it is worth visiting this small town to see these marvellous monuments. I reached back to Mandi Bamora by 2 PM. There was a nice dhaba where I had lunch. As that dhaba owner might have seen me giving money to that bike person so he asked me whether that person took some money in return for giving me a lift. When I said yes, he told that I could have told him that it was very urgent then he could have arranged something and I would have saved this money. He was cursing that person who took advantage of me and made money. However I was not sure whether his feeling was genuine or he was just thinking that he lost the opportunity of making some money. As I was not sure so better is not to doubt his feelings. Anyway the money was gone and there was no point in pondering on it. I had lunch and went to railway station. The train was at 3 PM and I reached Sanchi by 5 PM. I went to meet Mr. Rafi as yesterday I was not able to meet him. We chatted a little and then I went for my dinner to same bus stand restuarent. I had requested him yesterday to prepare Aalu Gobhi for me and he had made that. I had my lunch by 9 and reached the hotel. My Sanchi trip was very fruitful as I have covered all the places which I have planned to in these 3 days and only the last place, Udaipur, was remaining and I had one day left as well. I was disappointed in Khajuraho as I missed some places because of train delay, but Sanchi was pretty good in terms of coverage. With this thought, I went into sleep for a better day tomorrow.

Eran Town – Eran – A Lost Monumental Legacy
Eran Album – Eran Monuments Album
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Day 8 (30th January, 2010) Udaipur – I had to catch the same train, as I did yesterday, but today would get down at Ganj Basoda. From here, I would get a bus to reach Udaipur. I reached Ganj Basoda by 10.30 and at the bus stand I found that the bus to Udaipur had just left. Now next bus would be at 11.15 only. I checked about other options to reach there and people told me that it might be possible if someone going to Udaipur might give me lift. I reached the main road and tried my luck, but nothing worked out. So I returned to the bus stand again and waited for the bus. The bus came at 11.15 and started from there by 11.30. It took about an hour to reach Udaipur, which is about 20 kms from Ganj Basoda. I reached Udaipur by 12.30 and the temple was pretty near to the bus stand.

The Neelkantheswar Temple or Udayeshwara Temple was built during the reign of King Udayaditya as an inscription on eastern portico reads king Udayaditya as royal donor. This temple is an example of sapta-aayatana temple, seven temples around the main shrine. This temple is an exquisite example of Paramara style architecture. The temple has entrance from three sides and consists of a mandapa, mukh-mandapa and garbhagriha. The porches on three sides are protruding outwards forming a kind of portico. Only five surrounding temples have survived now around this temple. You will also find two Muslim wall formations on either side of the temple garbhagriha. Currently the entry to the complex is from west side, the original eastern entry is blocked permanently by ASI. The temple tower is a seven storeyed diminishing pyramidal fomation. The temple is still in use, and is open from Surise to sunset.

I returned to the Udaipur bus stand and found that I would get next bus only after an hour. The other conveyance was trucks as many Ganj Basoda bound stone trucks pass through Udaipur. Soon I got a truck and returned back to Ganj Basoda. The train was at 3.30 PM and I reached Sanchi by 5 PM. I wanted to finish my Stupa complex at sanchi so went directly there. I visited Stupa 2 and Buddha’s bowl. I sat in front of the Great Stupa for some half an hour and then had a great view of sunset. It was pretty peaceful sitting there at sunset with very less crowd. On my way back return, I met Mr. Rafi. We chatted little and I bought my things from his shop. I had dinner at the bus stand restaurent and then returned back to my hotel. As my train was at 8 AM next morning so I settled the bill of hotel in the night itself. This is the end of my Sanchi visit, which was very fruitful in terms of my planning and execution. I had visited all the places which I have planned. The day ahead is planned for Bhopal and Islam Nagar, and as I had to catch an early train so went to sleep early as well.

Udaipur Town – Udaypur – Epoch of Parmara Architecture
Udaipur Album – Udaypur Monuments Album

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Day 9 (31st January, 2010) Islamnagar and Bhopal – My train was at 8 in the morning from Sanchi to Bhopal. Though there are lots of buses available as well, however those take much time and stops everywhere. To avoid this inconvenience, I have booked a ticket in a train. I reached Bhopal by 10 and put my luggage in the cloak room. I did not book a hotel as I had my train to Indore at 5.30 in the evening. Today I had planned to visit Islamnagar which is 11 km from Bhopal. I had breakfast at the platform restuarent and then started for Islamnagar. You will get direct shared tempoes to Islamnagar from Bhopal Talkies stop. The tempoes usually takes an hour and directly takes you to the monuments site. There is a ticket to see the monuments, Rs 5 for Indian nationals.

Islamnagar’s old name was Jagadishpur and it was under a Rajut Gond chieftan, Narsingh Devara. Dost Mohhamad Khan, an Afgan soldier under Aurangzeb, killed the Narsingh Devara treacherously and renamed the town as Islamnagar in AD 1719. Dost Mohhamad Khan is also known as founder of Bhopal state and Islamnagar was its capital prior to construction of a fort in Bhopal. Rani Mahal & Chaman Mahal are the two palaces within the single complex.

Rani Mahal was built by Dost Mohhamad Khan in AD 1720 as a residence for his queens. This building is a fine example of amalgamation of Malwa, Rajut & Mughal architecture styles. This three storey building has entrance on western side which opens into an open verandah having four rooms on either side.

Chaman Mahal is built by Dost Mohhamad Khan in AD 1715 and this is one of the few examples of Char Bagh (four gardens pattern) style palace in central India. The gardens are decorated with fountains and stone ramps. Facing the garden is a red sandstone paltform, from where Dost Mohhamad Khan conducted his daily business. There is a Hammam (bathroom) on northern side of this platform, which is built in Mughal style.

I finished the visit by 12 noon and reached back to Bhopal by 1 PM. I came to know about Hakim’s, a very popular non-veg Muslim restaurent, so planned to try it out. Hakim’s is located in New Market area and is not a very big establishment. I ordered a chicken biryani. The menu prices are not so modest as compared to the establishment. Though many people had parised about this restaurent, however I have to say that I had the worst biryani of my life there. The waiter told me that chicken biryani is not much asked item there as they mostly serve mutton biryani. Anyway the damage was already done, and I was felling still hungry so I ordered a chicken curry dish with some rotis. This was ok kind but still disppointing. I have observed that Muslim dishes are usually very rich in oil and these days we are habitual of eating less oil. I finished my lunch by 2 PM and asked the owner about Taj-ul-masjid. He told me that I will get a direct tempo from near by stop and it will take some half an hour. I got a tempo and reached Taj-ul-masjid by 3 PM.

Taj-ul-masjid is the third larget mosque in the world. Nawab Shahjahan Begum started this building in AD 1877 as an aim to build largest mosque in the world. However her treasury position was not so sound. The prayer hall on its western side had nine entrance doors supported by pillars and roof with 27 hollow domes. This mosque has a separate portion for women to do prayer in its northern part of the paryer hall.

I retuned back to the railway station to catch my train which was at 5.30 PM. The train started pretty late, at 7 PM. This is the end of Bhopal and nearby places. I must say that I felt very disappointed with Bhopal as a city. Being a state capital, I had high expectations from this city. But it did not match upto the expectation. The city is not very clean and very crowded as well. There is no traffic sense in people and the inter-city connectivity is very slow. The private buses stop at every point and starts only when the bus is full. A 5 km journey within the city might take upto 30-45 minutes sometimes. I don’t know why people in Bhopal do not raise their voice against this, it might be that here people have enough time to waste or all have their own private conveyances. People told me that I visited all crowded areas in Bhopal but it also has some nice areas which are called VIP areas. My argument is that the real city does not exist in VIP areas and VIP areas are good everywhere in the world. So the picture of a VIP area can not be seen as a picture of real city. My next destination will have Indore as base camp and then exploring places near Indore including Mandu, Nemawar, Ujjain and Bagh.

Islamnagar Town –  Islamnagar – Mughal Heritage of a Hindu Town
Islamnagar Album – Islamnagar Monuments Album

Bhopal Town – coming soon
Bhopal Album – Bhopal Monuments Album

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Day 10 (1st February, 2010) Ujjain – I had reached Indore by 10 PM last night. I got up late in the morning as I planned to visit Ujjain and it was pretty near to Indore. The connectivity between these two towns is pretty good and buses take about 1-1.5 hrs. I took my bus at 10 AM and reached Ujjain by 11 AM.

Ujjain is one of the seven sacred places among Hindus. It also hosts Kumbh fare every 12 years along with Hardwar, Nasik and Allahabad. One of the twelve jyotirlinga, Mahakaleshwar, is also in Ujjain. This city is also connected with legendary King Vikramaditya. Ujjain is also mentioned in Meghdootam, a poem written by famous Indian Sanskrit poet Kalidas. Stated in a single line, Ujjain is a very sacred place and pilgrims visit this city all year around. Ujjain is situated at the bank of Shipra; this river is also considered sacred for Hindus. There are lots of finding during excavation around Ujjain which indicates the continuos occupation in the city since 4000 BC. Most of the temples in Ujjain are renovated during 19th century under patronage of Hindu kings. Most of the temples are still conducting worship on daily routine.

I had planned to visit Jantar Mantar (Planetary Observatory) only in Ujjain as nothing much is left there from archaeological point. This observatory was constructed in the reign of Sawai Raja Jaisingh between 1725 and 1730 AD. He constructed similar observatories in Mathura, Jaipur, Delhi and Varanasi. Mathura and Varanasi observatories are no more now, destroyed in earthquakes and vandalism. Jaipur and Delhi observatories are in existance however non-functional. The only functional observatory is in Ujjain. Ujjain is very important from astronomical perspective as well in India. This city is called as Indian Greenwich as this is the reference point for all astronomical calculations in India. The observatory at Ujjain was renovated by Madhav Rao Scindia, the then king of state of Gwalior in AD 1923. There are some six huge yantras (instruments), studied to calculate distances and behavior of planets.

I met Mr. Tiwari, who was the incharge of the observatory. He explained me in detail the working of these instruments. He also updated me on the current issues and problems faced by the observatory. He is a very learned man and has published two books on Indian astronomy. He favors application of new age mathematics over the old method of sanskars (Indian philosophy and books) in astronomical calculations. He also told me contacts in Ujjain University if I want to get more knowledge about the old Indian astronomy literature. Then he told me that he is attached with RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), and had participated in riots. Though I appreciated him as a learned man however this particular involvement of his put distance between us. It was already about an hour chatting with him so I took leave from him.

Though I had not planned to visit Mahakaleswar Temple, however my mother insisted me to pay homage there as I was in Ujjain. The temple is not very far from Jantar Mantar, however I got a lift from a bike rider and he dropped me near Mahakelshwar temple. Before dropping me at that temple, he stopped at Harsiddhi Temple and Bada Ganesh Temple. As he was paying himage there so I also did the same. I reached Mahakaleshwar at around 1 PM and thought that I would complete this in about half an hour. I wanted to reach Indore back before 4 PM so that I could visit MP Tourism office. All my planning was ruined when I found a huge queue inside the temple compound. This queue was not visible from outside so I did not know about such thing. I asked one local and he told me that it would take 2 hours minimum. Unfortunately it was Monday so there was huge rush. I knew by that time that I might not make for tourism office. However there was no other alternative as I was already in the queue. I had my darshan by 3 PM and then I rushed to the bus stand. A policeman was very generous to drop me on his bike to the bus stand and I got the bus soon. I reached Indore by 4.15 PM and thought to give a try for tourism office. As per my guide book, Lonely Planet, the MP Tourism office is located on RNT Marg. However when I reached there, I found that the office is relocated to another location. Then I thought to give a try next day as it was already 5 when I reached RNT Marg. I was hungry and spotted Smokin Joe’s pizzeria. I had pizza there and then returned to my hotel. I watched little TV and then read the Jantar Mantar folder to understand the mechanism better. After sometime I went to sleep for a new destination tomorrow.

Ujjain Town – Ujjain – City of Mahakal
Ujjain Album – Ujjain Monuments Album

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Day 11 (2nd February, 2010) Nemawar – In Indore there are three bus stands, and you get Nemawar bus from Navlakha Bus Stand. It’s loacted at one end of the city. All Mumbai, Pune buses ply from this bus stand. Nemawar is about 130 km from Indore and bus takes about 4-4.30 hours to reach there.

The first bus from Indore was at 6.30 AM and I took that bus to reach Nemawar before 12 noon. Inside the bus I asked the conductor how much time it would take, and he told me 4 to 4.15 hours. This was the first instance in MP when the bus reached as per the time told by the conductor. I reached Nemawar by 11 AM.

Siddhinath Temple is located near the bus stand. This is the loftiest temple of Paramara time built in 12th century. This temple houses a Shiva linga in its sanctum. Containing a mukha-madapa, maha mandapa and garbha griha (sanctum sanctorum), the temple shikhara (tower) is built in nine storeys tiers. The temple has main entrance from west, with side openings on either side of the mandapa.

I finished my work by 12 noon and caught the bus to Indore. I asked the driver and he told me that bus would reach by 4.15 PM. As in the morning, this time also bus reached on time though it took many breaks in between and I was scared that today also I would miss my MP Tourism office visit. I reached the MP Tourism office by 4.30 PM. My reason to visit was to get information about the connectivity between Indore and Bagh caves. The people there did not have much information, however they favored the idea of taking a taxi as Bagh is in much of interior. Also this area is very near to Jhabua disctrict, the tribal district of MP, so it’s advisable to come out of that area before sunset. I asked about the taxi rates and they told me that if I take taxi for more than one day then I had to pay for minimum 250 km. Then I thought to take taxi to visit Bagh and Mandu together as Bagh is about 170 km from Indore and Mandu is 100 km enroute to Bagh. It did not make sense to take taxi for Bagh only. I booked a taxi for two days and would cover Bagh and Mandu.

I reached back to my hotel and summed up my day pretty early as I had to start tomorrow by 7 AM to Bagh.

Nemawar Town – Nemawar – The Sky Reaching Spire
Nemawar Album – Album 

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Day 12 (3rd February, 2010) Bagh Caves– I started for Bagh at 7 AM. Being a long journey, as Bagh is about 170 km from Indore, you get an advantage if start early in the morning. Road till Dhar was not that good and our average speed was just 30-35 km. Dhar is about 60 km and it took two hours to reach there. All the roadside restaurants are closed in early morning time, so I had breakfast at Dhar in a tea shop and then proceed towards Bagh. Bagh is very close to Jhabua region, tribal region of MP, so it is advisable to return back to Dhar before dark. Today also People do not travel after 7 PM in Jhabua region without proper police protection and convoys. My plan was to finish up Bagh as soon as possible and then come to Mandu and stay for night there. From Dhar onwards road was ok and we travelled fast. We took a turn at Rajgarh from main road to Bagh. The land ahead and around this road is all barren and no sign of agriculture. I was thinking what the nearby by villagers do to earn their bread. The whole stretch of that 30 km, from Rajgarh to Bagh is of barren land and hills. Nothing grows there, even very few bushes and wild trees. You will have some sight of date palm trees, that’s all. Little ahead I saw some brick work factories. This is the only option for villagers to earn. My taxi driver told me that as people have very few earning options available so they loot passersby. These looting activities are prominent in nights, however day time is safe. He also told me few stories and method those native people apply about looting. When you hear such stories and you see that you are travelling on a road with no other vehicle around, then automatically you start thinking all strange things. I had seen some episodes on National Geographic about kidnaps and other such incidents, and all those memories freshened up in my mind. Anyway I reached Bagh caves by 12 noon.

Bagh caves are among the finest specimen of Buddhist art and architecture. These caves were excavated between 400 and 700 AD. Actually calling these caves will be a misnomer, as these are the find example of rock-cut architecture not natural caves. After the extinction of Buddhism in northern India by 10th century, these caves went into oblivion. This place became abode of tigers (Bagh) which gave name to this place as Bagh caves. The village with same name, Bagh, lies about 8 km from this site. The caves were rediscovered in 1818 by a British Army officer. These caves are famous for their mural paintings, which are executed in tempera style. This Buddhist painting phase is considered as a previous phase before the Ajanta painting phase. There are not many paintings left in the caves now, all are taken down from the walls and safely kept at on site museum. Photography is prohibited in the museum, so you will be little disappointed by it.

The task of making copies of the valuable but fast fading paintings on the Buddhist caves at Bagh was undertaken, and a greater portion of it carried out, in the year 1920. Later the work fell into abeyance as suitable artists were not available to complete it. Fortunately Capt. W.E. Gladstone Solomon the Principal of J.J. School of Arts, Bombay, who took special interest in ancient Indian Paintings, deputed Messrs Bhonsle and Apte, two of his students to complete the Bagh Paintings. These artists assisted by Mr. Bhand, a promising student of Gwalior, were able to make water color copies of the remaining figure paintings and complete the floral and geometrical decoration. Some of the most magnificent paintings were on the walls of the verandah of cave No.4.

As per a copper-plate grant stated nine caves at the site, however only five caves have survived. The current state of the caves is not very good; which are of sandstone, have crumbled, due to the excessive weight of the superimposing band of claystone with moisture percolating through it. ASI has done some reinforcement of roof; however it’s not certain till when the caves will survive.

Bagh is also famous for Bagh prints. Bagh prints have unique hand block printing, printed using vegetable dyes. The fabric used originally was cotton, but now saw tassar, crepe, and silk are being used with excellent results. Bagh layouts are dramatic with use of black and red alternately on a white background. Production process is painstaking and manual. Though the techniques and designs are age old but the prints retain its contemporary appeal.

I finished Bagh by 2 PM and then started for Mandu. To reach Mandu, we travelled back to Dhar and took a highway via Dhar bypass to reach Mandu. We reached Mandu by 5. Though when we started at Indore, my taxi driver thought that we would cover Bagh and Mandu in single day, however this did not come true so I decided to stay in night at Mandu. I visited some monuments located nearby entrance of the town so that I would have lesser work on next day.

I visited the gates of the fort, Delhi Gate, Alamgir Gate, Bhangee Gate and Gadi Gate. These four gates are located on the way to entrance of the town.

Bagh Town – coming soon
Bagh Album – coming soon

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Day 13 (4th February, 2010) Mandu – Mandu has lots of monuments worth seeing, so I started early in the morning as I had only one day. Mandu is a very small town and only few monuments are little far from main town. You can get bicycles on hire to roam around the town. I started my sightseeing from one corner of the town. I had planed to cover all important monuments from one corner to another and then leave from there to Indore back. Mandu is best visited in rainy seasons when all the ponds and artificial tanks are full of water.

Shahi Mahal (Royal Palace) complex is located at one end of the town. This is a ticketed monument. There are many buildings inside this complex, Jahaz Mahal, Hindola Mahal and Jal Mahal to name a few important ones. There is a museum as well inside the complex however photography is prohibited inside the museum. Just near the entrance gate, you will find a book shop from where you can buy guide book of Mandu published by ASI (Archaeological Survey of India).

Jahaz Mahal (Ship Palace) is considered as a benchmark in reflecting the spirit of Mandu’s romantic beauty and joyous hilarity. It is so artistically built, with a frontage of little less than 121.9m and width about 15.2m and height of its façade about 9.7m, on the narrow strip of land between waters of the Munj and Kapur tanks that it presents the sight of a ship anchored in between them.

Hindola Mahal literally means ‘Swinging Palace’, a name given to it because of its peculiarly slopping side walls. The plan of the building is in ‘T’ shape and this is extremely simple in its style of construction although maintaining aesthetic appeal.

On way back to main town, you will find Lohani Caves and temple ruins. The caves are excavated in very ordinary manner containing no carving or any inscriptions. In main town, you will find Hoshangabad Tomb complex which is also a ticketed monument. This complex has Jami Masjid and Hoshangabad Tomb. The entrance to the tomb is through a porch, supporting a marble dome above. Inside, the mausoleum stands on a square marble platform with carved ornamental border. The Hindu architecture influence is clearly seen in the elements of this tomb. On the right jamb of the door is the inscription recording that the four architects of Shah Jahan visited the place in AD 1659 to pay homage to the builders of the tomb. Of them, it may be noted, one was Ustad Hamid who was closely associated with the building of the famous Taj Mahal at Agra.

By far the most majestic building existing in Mandu is the Jami Masjid. It is said that builders had designed it after the great mosque of Damascus. The construction was started by Hoshang and completed by Mahmud Khalji in AD 1454. The western colonnade is the most imposing of all, with numerous rows of arches and pillars which go in support the domical ceilings of small fifty eight domes and of the three large ones rising majestically above the rest.

Ashrafi Mahal is in front of Jami Masjid. This was used as madarsa but later Mahmud Khalji made his tomb on the roof top of this madarsa. This tomb is now ruined but looking at the ruins it seems that it would have been the grandest dome building in those times, However as builders did not have much knowledge to support such big dome so it collapsed in two years after the construction.

From here you move towards the monuments near Sagar Talao. You will see Malik Mughith’s mosque, it is one of the earliest monument built in Mandu in AD 1432. Caravan Sarai is nearby this mosque which was built for caravan stays. Dai-ki-Choti-Bahen Ka Mahal is located in south of the Caravan Sarai. This building is associated with some lady related to certain wet-nurse of one of the princess of Mandu. It’s a tomb, though it is called mahal (palace). Near to it lies Dai-ka-Mahal, though it is a mausoleum. Nearby is the Echo Point where you can try your lungs out. After passing the echo point, you will find Jali Mahal on a turn towards east side.

On road ahead we reach Rewa Kund. Here are located Baz Bahadur Palace and Rani Rupmati Pavilion. These are ticketed monuments. Mandu is remembered for the love story between Baz Bahadur and Rupmati. Rupmati was a court singer in the court of Sultan Baz Bahadur. They fell in love and got married. Adam Khan got curious hearing beauty of Rupmati and attacked Mandu. Baz Bahadur was defeated and slained. Rupmati poisoned herself on hearing news of this defeat instead of surrendering herself to Adam Khan.

Situated on the slope of a hill in the midst of picturesque natural scenery the main gateway to the Baz Bahadur Palace is approached by forty broad steps. The main portion of the palace consists of a spacious open court with halls and rooms on all the four sides and a beautiful cistern in its middle. The inscription in Persian on main entrance assigns this palace to Sultan Nasir Shah in AD 1508-9.

On a lofty crest of a hill to the south beyond Palace of Baz Bahadur stand the pavilion associated with the romantic name of Rupmati. The pavilions on the terrace are sqaure in plan at the base and are crowned with hemispherical domes fluted both outside and inside. The pavilions are known after Rupmati who, it appears, used to come here daily from the palace nearby to have her darshan of the sacred Narmada.

On road back to town, a diversion after some distance from Rewa Kund leads to the Nil-kanth Temple. The present structure was apparently built on the site of a shrine of Shiva, the god with the Blue Throat, viz. Nila-Kantha, a name which survived during the last three centuries in spite of its Muslim character of the building. The inscriptions here by Akbar are of great importance. One interesting verse refers in a pathetic vein to the futility of earthly pomp and glory:

  “At dawn I noticed an owl roosting
        In the balcony of Shirwan Shah:
       Plaintively it uttered this warning,
       Where all that Pomp and where all that Glory?”

I finished Mandu by 5 PM and started to Indore. On way to Indore, about a km from Nila-Kantha, you can visit the Songarh Fort. I reached Indore by 7 PM and slept early in the night.

Mandu Town –  Mandu – City of Joy
Mandu Album – Album Link

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Day 14 (5th February, 2010) Omkareswar Omkareshwar is about 87 km from Indore and takes about 2.5 hours via bus. By yesterday, my planned MP itinerary was completed with two days in spare. Omkareshwar was not in my initial plan, however as I had two days left so I decided to visit this Hindu pilgrimage center. Omkareshwar is one of the joytir-lingas among the twelve hence considered very sacred for Hindus. On above of this, it is located on the banks of Narmada river, which is also considered very sacred for Hindus. The infamous Sardar Sarovar Pariyojna on Narmada river is built near Omkareshwar only. The small temple town is situated on both the sides of Narmada banks, making Narmada like a lifeline. However, the main island is sprawled along the southern bank of the Narmada. Barely four km by two km, the island is composed of two hills divided by a shallow valley; the contours thus formed give it the shape of Om, the holiest among Hindu symbols. The town is named on this symbol formation.

The island, also called Mandhata, can be reached from the town across the river by a cantilevered bridge or by a ferry. This island is oriented around the main shrine of Omkareshwar. This shrine can be seen from long distance attributed to its white high rising spire. It is built on the edge of a cliff overlooking river Narmada. The core of the existing temple is perhaps built by Paramaras in 11th century as seen by its Bhmija style of spire. The most of the present shrine is built quite later, in the 19th century by Holkars. This is a three tiered temple, where Shiva linga is placed on the lowest level. There is a Panchamukhi Ganesha shrine on the next level. The pillars of the mandapa are carved with sculptures and yakha capitals. When I reached the temple, there was not much of crowd hence it made my darshana easy. The linga in the sanctum is very small, as per Shiva Purana this is the only shapeless linga among the twelve jyotir-lingams. You can take photographs inside the mandapa but not of the sanctum.

There are many temples scattered around the hill, most of those are recent structures. However, Siddhanatha temple, located on a high plateau up on the hill, is of 12th century construction and in much of ruins. It looks like a rubble of stones, carelessly put at one single place. Yes, there is an MP Archaeology Department board of protected monument however there is no protection given to this shrine, even there is no enclosing boundary. Many of its stones are taken by villagers and put inside their local shrines nearby. All the guidebooks talked about very magnificent elephant frieze in relief, however all my efforts failed to locate such a frieze. Perhaps it no more exists here. Restoration of this temple can be done as many of the stones are still in their original form, however I do not see any activity of such a sort in near future.

There are few other shrine of little importance, from architectural point of view, so those were not in my itinerary. I finished my activities by 2 and reached the bus stand. Buses to Indore are quite frequent hence got the bus easily. I have planned to explore food options in Indore so reaching Indore on time was one of the goal. Indore has many option in food varieties. Market near Rajwada is turned into food paradise in the night, about 7 PM onwards. All the regular shops of the markets are closed and in front of those are opened temporary food stalls which serves various varieties of items including local flavors and other Indian dishes. Being a big foodie, how can I restrain myself from visiting such a place. I tried various items there and all were of mediocre quality, I failed to find something quite exceptional there. It may be that I went with very high expectations and hence did not find something matching on those standards, but I can’t confirm this as well. Anyway the food was ok, so I was happy. Many of the dishes, which were there, I usually do not find those in Bangalore so there was enough temptation for me. So someone said it correctly that when you combine food with your primary objectives then you get the best out of it, I don’t know said it or if no one has said then take my name for this :). Anyhow, after a good food you need a good walk, so I strolled back a little across the glittering roads of Indore which were full of vehicles as other roads of any metropolis.

Omkareshwar Town – coming soon
Omkareshwar Monuments Album – coming soon
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Day 15 (6th February, 2010) Indore – coming soon

  • You sure have a lot of energy, all those far-flung sites like Nachna! Bagh: wonder why w stone sculpture, photog. not allowed? doesn't make sense.
    Eran & Gyaraspur are on my list, too.
    Did you notice the spikes in the tree by the Heliodorus Pillar?

  • Unfortunately when I reached the pillar, the main gate was already closed. So I somehow jumped over the boundry and took the pictures. Did not have time to notice the nearby trees and temple, but now as you mentioned so I feel that I missed something, anyway lets see when I go there again.

  • God bless you for sharing your experiences of an interesting trip. regards, ravi.

  • N.Ravi Shankar

    EXCELLENT SAXENA !!!!!!!! KEEP IT UP !!!!!!!

  • wonderful narrative. keep writing more.

    rgds
    vj
    http://www.poetryinstone.in

  • Extremely interesting. Waiting for Omkareshwar. I may lift your photographs (provided you permit)

  • @ Mr PNS, feel free to take any photo of mine, I would surely not mind. I will update the blog for Omkareshvar and ahead, but little busy will my albums of previous place.

  • This is an incredible travelogue!! I was so mesmerized that I couldn't stop reading. Please keep adding to your blog, you have a faithful reader who is constantly keeping an eye out for more!

  • Brother: Nice travelogues. You are damn right about Hakim Hotel and Bapu ki Kutia. I think twitter works better in getting inputs about whether the taste is really good or hyped. There are some good places to eat in Bhopal and Hakim's worst dish is its Biryani.

  • Its really nice on my path that I cam across this post. Real culture of India is described here. Thanks a lot for the post.

  • Sanjiv K. Gupta

    Great. When are you completing rest of the story ?

  • Julianna Bertoty

    Last year in November on our study tour in India we wanted to visit sopme less known, nevertheless important representations of the Indian Arts. Your very useful and professional information about such places in M.P. in a great deal helped un to find our way to Eran or Deogarh – to mention only the most outstanding ones – whose temples and monuments are really Hidden Games of the old Indian Culture.Thanks! Julianna

    • Thank you very much, delighted to know that this website is helping people having interest in this field.