Taj – A photo Essay

The Taj Mahal a monument built in memory of emperor’s wife… Here is an essay the way I looked at this wonderful monument. And as we enter the space post beating the queue by booking online by booking on https://asi.payumoney.com

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Archaeological Survey of India and made the whole process so easy with the online mode.

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Any colour and it still stands tall and beautiful

The nature that day, wanted to play with this mammoth structure and it was a delight to capture it in all its splendor.

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And as we proceeded to the monument event the entry gate looked mesmerizing. The whole place is so so spread and grande. Even with so so many people in the place, we still managed to find space to shot the emptiness.

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It is so beautiful, that even the half of the monument delights one. The white marble just mesmerized us with its massiveness.

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The Black & White picture threw a class with a little beautification help from the clouds. One can not just take your eyes from it.IMG_20191001_201204_829

It was pristine and beautiful space to be in.

Things to check:

  • The Yamuna express Highway is a great road to drive to Agra from Delhi. There are trains too from Delhi. 
  • Book your tickets online through https://asi.payumoney.com .. you will save money and time.
  • You can only carry your camera bag / camera / cell phone, rest all in the cloak room. There is normally a long queue there.
  • The number of people who throng the place are plenty. So keep that in mind. 
  • Photographers there asked us Rs.600/- for some 60 pics. It is worth as they very well know how to shoot.
  • We did not find much value in picking a guide there, but if one wanted to then you could at Government rates. You could negotiate further.
  • If you happen to go to the interior of the mausoleum, pick up shoe covers from people outside the monument at Rs.5/- a pair.
  • Carry your own water bottles, food is a no-no.
  • Finally, ensure “Swatch Bharat”.

 

 

 

 

Bankapur Nagareshvara Shiva

Being lost even when GPS seems working I think is something that we have taken up for granted. And, finding newer things and pausing to find something beautiful is a new normal then.

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Well Bankapur fort was one such place. We had read about the Nagareshvara Temple inside the fort and wanted to check that out post our trip from Galaganath.

The fort is some 360 odd kilometers from Bengalore and 23 kms from Haveri. Haveri, does not have great places to stay. It was an “ok” place, where we could sleepover as a pit stop before we headed off further north of Karnataka. We started off after a sumptuous breakfast.

The fort is off the main road in the Bankapur area, which is well known for Peacock sanctuary and for Black Bucks (Well we could see none). Bankapur was a glorious place in the past. It was ruled by Rastrakutas, Chalukyas, Suenas, Hoyasala before being ruled by the Bahmani Sultans. This place was also ruled further by Bijapur’s Ali Adil Shah and then  by the Suvanur Nawabs who had to pledge the fort to the Maratha Holkars, who fell to Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan. The fort was finally seized by the Britishers. In the due course of time, the fort lost its glory and its structure too.

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Not knowing Kannada and following the GPS, we seemed to have gone around the barbed fencing of the fort and reached at a spot where we realized we were lost. That is where we paused and shot some lovely little birds.

We finally reversed and parked outside a wall and people said, you got to walk through this gate. As we started to walk, we were welcomed by a deserted feel. It had wild vegetation all around and the broken walls. From there on it was a deserted walk for close to one kilometer. The good part is that, there is a shade cover that the government has built. There are no signage to lead to the temple space though.

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As we walked to a small junction point we happened to meet a bunch of school kids who had come on a school excursion. What energy and fun. Reminded us of our school fun days.

After chatting up with them and asking for directions, we headed on our right side towards the temple place. The placed looked deserted yet had a charm of its own. May be still saying I have my mesmerizing effects still on.

This place was the fort area though deserted and not much of visitors except for the locals, there is a habitation. People come and farm inside too. The government has given the local people the lands to be used. The spaces unused are huge.

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Cultivation inside the fort

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As we neared the place, the first side was that of the roof and then the temple space opened up for us. The smallness was grandeur for us. The temple today would be some seven feet below the normal ground height as of today. As we took the flight of stairs, one could feel that ASI has been working on the space. It was very clean and gave a feel of the care that the government is taking for preserving these pristine pasts of ours.

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This ancient Western Chalukyan temple is also called as “Aravattarukmbhada Gudi” or “Temple with Sixty six columns. It was built in the later Chalukya or Kalyani Chalukya rulers. And yes, this is again another Shivan temple, similar to what Western Chalukya kings have been creating. This temple was created in the 12th century.

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We had to remove our footware and get into the temple space, even though we did not find any prayers being done to the linga. The young Bengali ASI person who was bought up in Bihar and had an Odiya girlfriend who wanted to go for a kannada movie that morning with a local friend that day ensured that we all remove our footware there.

As we discussed and started to ask him more questions about the place, we realized he hardly had any understanding of what this place was. He was eager to close the main sanctum and move on for the day.

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Exquisite carvings on the door of the sanctum. There is a lot lost with time and still this art work stands tall.

The sixty six pillars forms the part of the small mandapa, which must have been a place of congregation. Though we stepped  into the sanctum, we could one see a small shiva Linga and it seemed to have been shut because of ASI work. Our ASI man did not let us click any pics inside too.

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The intricate designs on one of the pillars

 

The first impression that we got were the beautifully chilled pillars. It would remind anyone of the Belur & Belvadi temples. The only difference is that, they were build for Vishu and these Chalukyan were for Shiva. And yes, Hoyasala architecture is heavily influenced by the Chalukyan creations. This temple is a great example for it.

When one enters the temple, one could feel the chillness in the space. The floor and the sandstone pillars chill the place. The sandstone structures also gives in to the fact the carvings and structures suggests that it could have been the beginning of stone carvings. Bankapur has a dense population of peacocks and it shows in the carvings too.

We spent a lot of time, walking and feeling the beautiful carvings on the walls. The door especially had some intrinsic workings and one see how the stones have hollowness as well as liveliness at the same time.

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The raised platforms around the inner part of the wall did have similar impressions as that of Galagnath temple, where people must have used this for playing board games. There is something about that place that could get peace and tranquility.

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Board Games

The subsequent time that flew post the creation, the fort’s occupiers in the later years broke a lot of artifacts, statues and today what we see could just be a small part of that beautiful history.

Some of the monuments have been placed at different places of the palace, just as a reminder as to what this place would have been.

As we walked back to our car, we could only talk as to what the stars above us would have seen when the plans for this magnificent temple was laid and then its destruction. Thanks to ASI for having preserved such jewels for this and the subsequent generations to cherish and feel awe about.

Things to check:

  • Haveri is a small place, cannot expect great hotels. And if you are looking at staying before heading to Bankapur, this is the best place only.
  • Food is local but nice and clean. If you are experimenter then a great way to taste local food.
  • Own transport is the best to discover new places.
  • The Bankapur fort is dilapidated and the entrance would like some government place. So check with locals if you feel lost. People GPS is best.
  • There is no ASI fees to enter the place and no one asks money in the temple.
  • There is a lot of walking to be done from the gate to the temple space.
  • If you are travelling during summer time, carry your own caps and shades.
  • The place is very peaceful and soak the beauty.
  • Carry your own food & water bottles. You do not have shops to buy what you may like.
  • Finally, ensure “Swatch Bharat”

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Indeed, Incredible India!! and a glorious history of India!!!… Only wanting us to come back again and again.

Ankalagi Caves (Chandravali)

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80ft below the surface, a thought that can send shivers and goosebumps.. many channels to one room can confuse but at the same time, can also be a safe bet.

The Ankalagi caves, at Chandravali is a delight to be. We had driven all the way from Chennai and reached there by 2.30 in the afternoon. The sun was bright enough even on a winter afternoon. Wondered how hot this place would be in summers.

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The place was ambiguous as we parked our car and walked. All the sign boards were in Kannada and it was a struggle for a stranger like us. We asked people here and there who directed us towards the caves. As we reached the spot saying Ankalagi caves, we were not sure if the caves were the same as Chandravali, only to realize later that this place has a relation to the saints of Belgaum from Ankali Mutt. A flight of stairs under construction took us to an opening of the well structured rock place.

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A team of so-called guides seated there suggested they could help us and the moment we stepped into the cave we realized why. One could get lost in the darkness and the many chambers without a guide.

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Salutations as you enter the cave

Chandravalli caves have a huge significance as they seem to have covered times from Pre-historic to the Hoysala dynasty. These caves have been known for the sages who had visited this place for meditation.

From a Geography point of view, these caves are in the valley between three mountains, the Kirabanakallu, Chitradurga and Chollagudda. There is a lake right before you enter the caves that adds to a beautiful sight. There are rock structures that would make you feel like you are looking at Elephants at the water body.

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Elephant drinking

Now, as the guide took us in our biggest challenge was that of language. Most of the guides are Kanada speaking and they speak in broken Hindi. Our guide got inside and went on a ramble. We had to stop her many a times and reiterate what we understood. There is so many more things that one needs to soak in the darkness down there. The only that helps is the torch lights.

As one steps in one does realize that, the place is airy and not stifling at all. The heights of the passages are quite short may be around 3.5 ft so one has to be watchful. With the clean shaven head, I had to be more careful. 🙂

Secrecy and escape routes were of paramount importance. As we entered down a flight of stairs, the space opened up into a meditation center with the entrance being adorned by two elephant like structures. Then we moved into the sleeping and the bath chambers of the caves. Even though we were in the cave, the bathing chambers had a space for rain water harvesting and ensuring that the water was let out properly. There were spaces for keeping the Diyas which was the only source for light in the caves in those times.

We also happened to walk through smaller passages to reach a space where the king and his key members along with the sages had discussions. That space was so dark when the lights were off that, if there was any emergency they could escape quickly without anyone knowing. There is also a belief that there were underground passages connected to the Chitradurga fort. These caves also were used to store the treasures of the kings (It is so believed).

What really was breath taking to observe was the carvings and sculptures that were created and still available for us to see after thousands of years. Just imagine, how those fine artisans would have sculpted just using the light of diyas. What a craftmanship it was during those times. The walls are adored with creepers, designs and idols. A treat to the eyes even in such darkness.

Lord Shiva seems to have been a prominent deity to be prayed to. There were too many a sculptures and graphic images that adorned the walls too.

As we came out it took time for the eyes to adjust to the light. Once out, you could see the other structures that were built on top of the caves, though mostly in broken condition.

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After we left the guide, we took time to just soak in the feeling of a history that was not only mysterious, historic but also architecturally brilliant. As we left the place, it felt there is much more than what we saw and the place needs more time for art and architecture lovers.

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The lake in front of the caves

Few points definitely to note.

  1. The road leading to caves is not that great.
  2. Ample parking space to park your vehicles.
  3. Do take a guide as you step in or else you would get lost inside.
  4. If you are not from Karnataka, negotiate well with the guide before getting in.
  5. Torches are the best, not cell phone ones. Carry them. (We missed to get ours ready).
  6. Take your time, if you like something. The guide would ask you to hurry up all the time as they are running their own agenda.
  7. Stay at the place before you leave, breath in the freshness of the place.

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Cursed Palace!!

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It was really an eire morning when we finally conjured our thoughts to make it to one of the scariest places in India.

Bhangarh!!! A place that was never on our tourist map and when one hears that it is one of the scariest places on earth it certainly deserves a visit. So what, you hear that you are not allowed post 5 pm to step in.. One leads to another and a simple search to find out about the scariest places in India would certainly through up “Bhangarh’s –
Ajabghar” in Alwar district of Rajasthan on the top of the list.

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Build in 1631 AD by Man Singh-I. The fort has been build at the picturesque Aravali Mountain ranges today bordering the Sariska Tiger Reserve. The curse of the “Black Magician”who wanted to marry the princess Ratnavati, seems to have brought the end of once a thriving palace. Trying to find more about the palace, one hears about the scary stories and deaths that have taken place in that palace.

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Anyway, loaded with all the excitement and suspense we headed off to Bhangarh. The sun shone bright with its heat beating down as we headed on the Jaipur – Delhi highway. The roads are really amazing and one could literally zip through. We stopped in between at a regular local dhaba for some lovely parathas and curd before heading on to our destination. That day the sun went on beating down, at 10 am it was really hot and we could feel energy zapping away. Loaded with my camera bag, bottles of water, hand kerchief and caps..

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We headed off on our exploration. As we entered through the Hanuman gate we were wondering as to where is the palace?? You are welcomed by vast expanses of broken walls, which should have been once a thriving market place and residential places. Once inside you do not have any shop or anything where you could buy water or anything of need. So, it will be great to carry your bottles and anything to munch.

And one thing for sure, that you would be mesmerized by the broken structures that have been well preserved by ASI. The beauty is personified by the rows of market that are all across the pathway. It does say how prosperous that era was.

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As we walked down the path, I felt that I have been here only later to realize that this place has been used for many Hindi Bollywood movies. What ever said and done, it is breathtaking to see and think what this place was at one point of time. It must have

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filled with hustle and bustle of people selling and buying things. So much of life. Some of these houses have a first or mezzanine floor. The city must have had a definite structure and plan. One does feel amazed at how thoughtful and forward thinking India was in its past. There is a lot to learn for us from the past that can certainly have a positive impact on today’s living.

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The Banyan tree add to the ghost quotient

As we walked on, one is welcomed by a huge banyan tree adjacent to the Palace entrance. The palace was still far off. One needs to be ready to walk quite a distance in the hot sun here. And, you will not be disappointed at all.

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The entrance to the palace

That day in particular was a festive day and people were offering food to monkey. If you are more adventerous that us then you could actually feed them too. We being the brave ones 😉 moved on towards the palace. Though broken, one would be in awe with the grande’ and the spiritual presence of temples just in front of the palace.

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The architectural work inside the temples are amazing and has a similarity to the temples in the northern part of the country. Also, one does find local flavours of animal sculptures on the walls like that of camel.

Only one of the temples is functional and that too of “Bhairav baba”. People do come in hordes from the villages nearby and pray there. This temple is today inside the palace.
Did you know that People offer “Cigarettes and Bidis” are prasad (Offerings) to the lord.

The ask is for more power and mental stability. On that day, the drums kept playing at a rhythmic pace calling us to meet them.

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Well as we stepped in, we had a nice steep climb on a ramp before we reached the steps of the palace. Well in today’s context, only two floors are available for us to visit. It is said that four floors have gone down into the earth. There are huge holes that are there but the myth of the spirits did give us a scare to even explore in the daylight. Not to be disappointed, the remaining two floors are no less breathtaking. Even in its dilapidated condition it is a great place to photograph.

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Today the place is cleared up well and one could access most of the places and would certainly say at your risk. There is no barricading on the roof and that one needs to be careful while being there. And do not forget to shoot as many pics as possible.

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We spent close to two hours in the hot sun and felt mesmerized at the beauty that this place has to offer.
Well is it spooky?? Maybe, but on the festive day, the presence of so many villagers did not make us feel so. And here must add that while leaving I happened to move down an small paved path just outside the palace area which lead to many other temples. That was very quite and maybe of what all one hears the mind plays. The rustle of the wind does tend to send a chill down the spine.

Whatever said and done, it is worth a visit and am sure it will leave a lasting impact.

Few things that one would certainly need to keep in mind while travelling to Bhangarh:

  • Try to go during festive time, you would get to see the local traditions
  • Carry your water bottles in any season.
  • Hats / caps off-course, if it is summer / hot season.
  • Be ready to walk quite a distance.
  • Avoid the monkeys
  • It is our heritage, do not litter it or spoil it.
  • A lot of photographs apart of selfies. Breath-taking views
  • Be ready to spend two hours minimum to explore and enjoy the place.
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The Map of the palace

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