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”.

 

 

 

 

Lost Yoginis of Mitawali

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Chaushati Yogini, the word itself takes me back to the time when I had visited this Sakthi pitha at Hirapur near  Bhubaneswar. Especially this being the Dasahara time, I remember how Mahamaya, the central deity of Chaushati Yogini is celebrated.

I had a similar impression when we started our planning some three months earlier. India has got some 12 odd Yogini pithas and Mitawali (near Morena) is one such revered place.

Thanks to Madhya Pradesh Government, the approach road to this place took me back to 1980’s roads of India. DSC_1052 (2)

Anyway, somehow we managed to reach the place by 4 pm. Our plan was to rush of to Orchha at the earliest as we now became worried of the roads. As we parked our vehicle, we were attracted towards a chorus singing.

DSC_1049 (2)We paused ourselves as we were enthralled by a group of village women who had sat down to sing a simple folklore and praise Mother Durga.

As they finished singing we could not hold ourselves back requesting them to sing again and they happily obliged.

After spending our time, we started to climb up a hillock. And this was not before, one of the ladies invited us to come to her home. When we politely said later, she said have some water from the tube well and head off. We had some really sweet, chill water from the tube well and made our way out. It was quite humbling to see the simplicity and warmth in our villages.

As we approached our climb, we realized the walk would be of  some 100 steps up. I kept running up with excitement and literally ran up gasping for breath. The familiar circular structure invite me.DSC_1068 (2)

There was a board there stating us to remove our footwear. As I took the final flight of ten steps, I looked around the inner shell of the temple. It had a different feel. The circular inner shell had sixty four small Chambers and there was the central mandapa.

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We started to walk around and for me it was a gloomy scene, there were no yogini’s inside. I found Shiva lingas been kept inside these chambers.IMG_20191002_152940

The central mandapa was even more disappointing. They had managed to keep three Shiva Lingas where the locals offer prayers.

I was feeling low seeing the plunder that has happened to this magnificent piece of history. This structure that has given India it’s parliament structure was now standing hollow.IMG_20191002_153036__01

With a heavy heart and a tinge of disappointment we headed back to our car, though thankful to Archaeological Society of India (ASI) that such lovely structures and piece of history is preserved the test of time.

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Things to check:

  • Do not attempt any other route, make the way from Gwalior. This route is safe and has some tar on the road. The other approach roads are really bad.
  • There is not much of signage that will guide you except when you are close to the place. So hold on to your GPS maps and human maps too.
  • The climb is steep and has close to 100 odd inclined steps. Shoes are a good option
  • There is no ASI fees / charges to enter the place and no one asks for money.
  • If you are travelling during summer time, carry your own caps and shades. 
  • Carry your own food & water bottles (BYOB). There are local village shops and I doubt if it could be of much help. 
  • People are very humble and helpful.
  • Finally, ensure “Swatch Bharat”.

Ruins of Chambal … Bateshwar

IMG_20191002_134805Ever felt lost and found with awe… Bateshwar, near Morena, Madhya Pradesh is just the place that would make you feel that.

When Google fumbles with the path, and you trust technology too much, then be rest assured, you will have a journey of a life time. We went through villages that would take you back in time, roads that will test your driving skills and vehicles shock ups. We quit the maps and went back to the age old tradition of asking people about the directions. It was on their judgement call we trusted and made our way through the villages and battered roads.img_20191002_140047

Finally we reached the destination. Believe me it was a scary space. Apart from the board which looked neat, the rest of the places felt deserted. We gingerly moved in. My partner had plans to leave the place. When we reached the gate, we were welcomed by a neat looking office but manned by none.

IMG-20191009-WA0061We parked the car under a tree and made our way through the gate.  The team from ASI has really worked in making the place look beautiful. The trees are welcoming and all the tiredness went off into thin air.

The site of a peacock was bliss and it felt warm and welcomed as our eyes began to scan the place for signs of a different life and archaeological wonders from the glorious past of India.

DSC_0975 (2)We took a few more steps, the sight of the temple gopuras was fascinating. We forgot all the pain and the delusion of the road and soaked ourselves in the place.DSC_0978 (2)

As the expanse opened up, we were welcomed by a number of similar looking small temples. I was jumping like a little kid who had just got hold of a long desired ice cream. I ran from one flight of stairs to another exploring the series of temples at each level. I was in awe with the symmetry of the temples. Most of these temples would be from 5.5 ft to 6.5 ft. There are  a few that would be some 12 ft high too. These are Shiva temples built during the Gurjara Pratiharas time which would be 7th century CE.DSC_0987 (2)

There are stories that these temples were built by the students as a part of the Guru dakshina pratha post their learning at the school. How fascinating and a wonderful way to pay their tributes to the Guru.DSC_1004 (2)

Bateshwar comes in the Chambal valley and this part was well infested with dacoits who ruled the place. The time I am talking about is not too much in the past. It was in 2005, Bhopal region’s Superintending Archaeologist  from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) K.K. Muhammed who restored close to 60 odd temples here.DSC_0990 (2)

As per the recent folklore, it seems he had a dream of Lord Shiva asking him to come to Bateshwar and restore the shrines. Initially he ignored it especially given the fact that the place was notorious but as the dream kept coming again, he ventured into the heart of the dacoit land and convinced them to start the restoration work.DSC_0988 (2)

Well things did not come easy. But he kept working on his dream and finally gave the world some of the most astonishing temples and the glory what we would have missed. There are a couple of temples where the Lord is being prayed.DSC_0984 (2)

DSC_0985 (2)We spent close to half an hour there exploring the world that was part of a rich tradition. Today there is work being done by ASI in restoring it further.

It seems a lot of these were earlier Vishnu temples which were later reused as Shiva temples. These temples have got simple standard carvings that are fascinating to see the striking similarities. The gopuras are very interesting. Some are very ornate while some are absolutely plain in structure.

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Bateshwar, one does not know much about them from the history books nor is Madhya Pradesh tourism doing much to make the roads accessible or propagating it. Feels sad that such treasures are not being spoken about.DSC_0983 (2)

As we left the place, I was filled with delight to have finally made it to this place and witnessed a part of history that speaks millions of our glorious past.

Things to check:

  • Do not attempt any other route, make the way from Gwalior. This route is safe and has some tar on the road. The other approach roads are really bad.
  • There is not much of signage that will guide you. So hold on to your GPS maps and human maps too.
  • There is a lot of walk in and around the place, so make sure you have your comfortable shoes on.
  • There is no ASI fees / charges to enter the place and no one asks for money.
  • If you are travelling during summer time, carry your own caps and shades. 
  • Carry your own food & water bottles (BYOB). You do not have shops to buy what you may like. Almost no habitation nearby.
  • Finally, ensure “Swatch Bharat”.

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Sparsha Linga

DSC_8476 (2)India is a country full of surprises and are hidden in places that finding them itself is mesmerizing. Though we had done good amount of googling to find more about this lovely place, Galagnath hidden in a small village on the banks of Tungabhadra, one can get lost, practically.

After having done a quick stop at Somesvara, we headed towards our destination. The fascination with this place was more with regard to structure in which this was created by the western Chalukya dynasty during the period of Vikramaditya.DSC_8487 (2)

Galaganath village was earlier called as Palluni Village and was later named as Galaganath because of Galageswara. When we read in history that habitations happen on river banks and cultures flourish, this place can stand out to be one great example. The beautiful temple is tucked on the banks of Tungabhardra, It is also called the place where five rivers meet. They are Tunga, Bhadra & Kumudvathi merge with Varada & Dharma.

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The temple is on a real high platform and it gives a great view of the river and village.

We after being lost, managed to slowly move towards the temple after multiple attempts to converse and understand the language. Finally the sign language & humanness took the better of us and we reached this beautiful temple.

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We paused and wondered before we could step further

As one steps into the temple, what catches our eyes is the structure. Though there is a Chalukya influence, but the base makes you feel that this is that of a pyramid base. But as the structure rises it has got beautiful designs and intricate workings. The structure is that of a mandala and the temple opens up to the east towards the river.

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The Unique structure of Galageswara

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Small yet Majestic temple 

As we walked around, we were mesmerized by this small base and the stone carvings. What fascinated me the most was the Shiva linga. It is a huge linga compared to the ones that I have seen so far in Dakshina Karnataka, where the concept of building is huge linga are evident. More, we got to hear from the locals there who spoke some good Hindi and English.

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The eastern entrance of the temple. A Nandi sits there majestically infront of the Shiva Linga. Notice the work on the walls. Simple yet elegant.

It is said that this Linga has a “Sparsha Linga” underneath it. Legends say that, people used to put an Iron rod near the Linga and pray, which used to get converted to gold. When the king got to know about the misuse of it, he got the Linga covered with “Galaga” or a protective layer. Since then the temple has been called as “Galageswara” and the village name changed to Galaganath.

It is not just Shiva, but the walls are also adorned by Vishu avatars, and Lord Surya (The sun God).

The temple has a small mandapa and it seems the temple was used for Art and Dance proliferation. There is no denial that temple were built as culture & Communication hubs and religion was used a binder. On the raised platforms within the mandapa are etching of board games that would have been played during that time.

There are stone inscriptions stating that the temple was built around 1080 AD.

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The inscriptions on the stone talking about the temple and its creation

We spent time talking to the ASI caretaker, the School headmaster and a few locals who were very enthusiastic to share their knowledge and understanding. One could see the pride they carry for the place. They loved to pose and we loved to shoot them.

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The temple shares its boundary walls with the village and the co-existence is so nicely woven in.

It is said that the Kanndiga Literary novelist “Shri Venkatesh Trivikrambhat Kulkarni” was born in Havanur and he had written most of his novels sitting in the mandapa of Galageswara. He is also called as “Father of Kannada Novels”, who had self published and sold his 29 books on the streets to popularize the language too.

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Depiction of Fisherman, Praying woman (Stating normal life) and then the religious belief with Shiva Linga and Nandi

After spending close to an hour we headed for our destination for the day, Haveri and not before we had an impromptu stop on the open field to pick up Byadgi Chilly.

A few pointers:

  • This is a small village and GPS may not locate the temple accurately. Get onto local people network to find more.
  • There is no ASI fees to enter the place and no one asks money in the temple.
  • The place is very peaceful so you could spend some “Me time” 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”

That one hour is well etched in our minds and we just cannot remove the fascination and creative excellence that India had then.

Hats off to Incredible India!!

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Colours of Faith .. Bannari Amman

IMG_20190708_180604Faith comes in many colours and are blissful especially in a country like India.

It is wonderfully said, “Unplanned events are sometimes more mesmerizing and fulfilling than what a planned event can give”.

This was my second visit to Bannari Amman Temple, down south of India. This place was very famous because of “Veerapan” – the famous Sandal wood & Ivory smuggler who ruled the hills of Sathiamanagalam. He also gave the governments and police personnel of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala many sleepless nights. Well that story for some other time.Bannari Amman

I happened to be here for the first time while returning from Mysuru driving through the Sathi Ghats (One of the most enchanting Ghats of India).

That time, it was a stop for break and the visit to the temple was just a routine plan. This time, it was an unplanned trip that I landed up in the temple around 5.30 in the evening. The drive through the beautiful tree lined roads can lift any down spirits.

As we reached there, the evening Arthi was in full swing and there happened to be hardly ten people in the queue. We patiently waited for the Arthi to be over and our turn to visit the powerful Amman.MMD-467

There is a beautiful folklore, where the traders used to carry their goods from one side of the hill to the Mysore to sell. Once a local herdsman saw a cow stopping near a tree and the milks from her udders started to flow. The herdsman saw it over a couple of days before sharing this with others and the local villagers dug the place up to find a “Swayambhu” of a Linga  that emerged on its own. As the news spread it seems the goddess made her presence felt to bless the traders and their safety. This folklore is some 400 years old but even today, the travelers to pay their obeisance before heading ahead on their respective journey. She is also known to ward off any evil that may befall one as we keep hustling in our lives.

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Though the sanctum is small, but the place is huge and is busy with activities through out the day. Just sitting there and soaking in the environment will enlighten your spirits.

What ever be the folklore, but I did feel a serge of a positive vibration there. The idol is a very small one but the eyes that spark in them will leave a very positive feel in one. It was indeed a blissful evening as we walked around and soaked ourselves in the bliss of this powerful Amman or Goddess.

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There are salt beds, where people keep throwing in the salt to ward off the evil thoughts and incidences. A faith that has started to grow recently.

People indulge in buying the threads and idols that they could carry with themselves as a blessing.

A mother who treats all in the same way, and all are grande for her who are living their legends and she is just there to help them in their journey.

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She is such a delight to be with and take back the smile and faith that life is indeed Beautiful!!!

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The playfulness of the little girl defined the spirit of the place for me!!!

Durga Foodie

IMG_20181222_181725Food is always the backbone of any city and little towns of this beautiful country is always mesmerizing. One such place that we happen to visit was Chitradurga during December. The temperatures were down but this rock city still held its warmth in the air. The hotel was not that helpful and it prompted us to step out. The long drive from Chennai was not too worrisome. edf

It was getting dark as the lights started to come out to bring out the night life in this little city and we got curious as to what this city could give. The smaller lanes and rumbling tummies made us ask people about the eateries around. Unanimous was the “Lakshmi Bhavan Tiffin Center” and the path brought us to the first fort edfgate and right adjacent to the gate was a small eat out, our nostrils pulled us to the aroma and we could not resist ourselves from experimenting food there. If you happen to be there, do not miss the aloo bondas there, they are simply mind blowing. They happen to shut down by 6 pm.

From there we moved on to Lakshmi Bhavan Tiffin center. It seems that the shop closes by 7 pm and so by the time we reached there, the

stocks had run out. But we did manage to try the Dosa and the Gulab Jamun. They were good and it left us asking for more. We felt it was more hype than the quality of the food that we could have.

The beauty about travelers is that they could be hungry for exploring and asking people shamelessly about things especially food .. 🙂

We headed off towards the next destination but not without having the “Mirchi Bajji” and walked munching the spicy delicacy,

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This lead us to walk the streets to “Sri Basaveswara Hot Chips & Condiments”, this lead us to hog on “Thata Idli“, Vadas and bondas apart from the savories that were flying off.

IMG_20181222_190225How can it be that the evening would end without something sweet. Just across the road were hot Jalebees freshly made. It was just the right food to seal off the evening.

It was simply juicy and sweet. The tangyness was just right. It was crispy and hot to tell you that this was made right there and just for your taste buds. The only sad part was that it was served on plastic kept over news paper. I wish there could be some other way.

That evening when we retired to the room, we kept talking about this little city and its gastronomic flavours. It was simply wow..

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Chitra & Durga

Stones can be a guardian when used to fortify
Stones can be an art when crafted by an artisan
Stones can beautify when weather does its natural work

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Classic symbol at the entrance of the Fort

Chitradurga, is an fort that is a combination of all where nature has worked along with the kings of yesteryears to build at fort that was a symbol of pride and beauty.

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It was early in the morning by 5:30 that we woke up. Our excitement was so high that in the darkness, we just wanted to jump out and reach the fort. The fort opens up by 6 am and we did not want to be late as we knew that it would get hot so what if it is December.

For the morning to get started we had a cuppa of tea at the local stall and got into a rickshaw to head to our destination.

As we got down, first things first was the tickets… we picked that up at the nominal rates and then the fight was that of a guide. Do pick up a guide as the place is too big and you would need one to understand the place better. Also, seek out with other people who are searching for a guide. Could be a good bargain and a better deal. We did not find many good Hindi or English speaking guides, one of the security guys (Mr. Bholaram / 09741512749) who was on his way to work said he can pitch in and it turned out to be a good choice for us as he could show us the places and the dialect just worked well for us.

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This location, has its existence from the Mauryan dynasty in the 3rd Century AD and later after its fall was with the Rastrakutas, Chalukyas and Hoyasalas. When the Vijayanagara dynasty collapsed, the Nayakas or Paleyars took over this rock bed place. Madakari Nayaka was the last most powerful king of the Nayakas who brought glory to this amazingly mysterious place.

The symbol of snakes, Shiva and vishu’s icons decorate the DSC_8244 (2)otherwise plain straight walls of the fort. They must be at least 40 – 50 ft high and the path way is serpentine too. As we came up from the first gate, realized that the place has similarity to that of Hampi’s natural boulder structures. These rocks have been used to the best possible ways, by creating natural guarding points as well as dwelling places.

Rock structures are abundant. Some have been created naturally while many of them have been man built. They are mesmerizing and one does not have to stretch one’s imagination to visualize them.

The crowd in the early morning hours makes it difficult to move around and to take some lonely pictures. The best time would be on a working day 🙂

The history is rich and there is more to learn about this lovely fort, the best concise history that I could read on the net is by one Barry Lewis.

Our guide took us through the palace pathways, arches and huge stone doors. These pathways, enabled not only the army to move into the palace but also horses and elephants with ease. The structure has been so well built that the enemy if is not aware about the trap doors and points could easily be shot.

IMG_20181223_085955One of the interesting things, that walls have fish symbols and they are significant as they meant that the water place is close by. A representation for the soldiers to access things. They are so huge that one cannot miss noticing them. Fish symbols

Also the palace is so so huge that not only the kings had their army stay but also could practice. It was a small township inside the fort well fortified and kept alive. It was indeed a thriving township.

Our Guide, Bholaram took us to through the paths that once were taken by the proud strong solders of Dakhina Kanada, today is nothing but just wild grass and broken walls.

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After seeing the regular places, like the Gali Mandapa, Obavvana Kindi, Temples, we went started walking towards the place that was not normally visited by the tourists. I think our secret was that we had our security guide and that was clearly the advantage that we had.

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The loneliness of the place even in day time could be eerie. Once we overcame that, we ventured into the broken down areas that took us by surprise. The our attention was the huge water body that has been a major source of supply to the palace that is just a stone throw away from there.IMG_20181223_084038

And talk about local belief, to take off an evil eye there were celebrations that had happened just the day before and the celebration was still fresh on the rock and it was awesome to see the celebrations still being done in a traditional fashion by the local folks. Just the vivid colours on the rock could bring in liveliness to the place. To me it looked like Bhairava being remembered even today for power and getting rid of an evil eye.

We realised that this place was actually the Palace and what well protected towards the center of the palace. This place had the royal chambers, granary place, ammunition center. This part of the palace is yet not been taken care by the archaeology and am sure once done, it will be a delight.

As we moved from the palace, the dilapidated place opened up to reveal a beautiful temple that was just carved out of the the rock. It had a cave and rock carving structure. It was really amazing. We came up to the Kali temple which was carved into the rock structure.

We happen to be fortunate to have met up with the climber Mr. Jyothiraj, who is also called the Monkey man of India, who is going to represent India in Olympics. And dsc_8416-e1555845641369.jpgliterally he showed us why!!

He made the whole interaction so so interactive that one can travel with him on how an orphan made his way and what destiny with hard work can do to a man.

He has broken his bones but his focus to represent India is such a strong urge that nothing seems to be coming in between that. Tried to record this event of him climbing a 25 feet stone wall in just 5 seconds. It is breathtaking to see the ease at which he does this against a background of cheers, awws and claps..

Few things that you would need to remember while being at Chitradurga:

  • Best time to visit Chitradurga would be winter season (October to Feb).
  • The fort opens by 6 am, so be there early. Even the winter heat could drain you out. The biggest advantage is the crowd. It peaks up as the sun gets brighter
  • Wear your shoes as you could end up walking lots.
  • Covered clothes are better, especially Jeans as any of the local shrubs could have thorns.
  • Patience especially at Obavvana Kindi, where every one would like to feel a part of history through which “Hyder Ali’s” soldiers got into the fort secretly.
  • Read a bit about the places, as you have loads of places to shoot. A great place to do video blogs too.
  • Carry your water bottles & food. Though there is a shop in the middle of fort, it may not be open at the times you may need. Do remember Swatch Bharat and keep your trash only for Trash bins.
  • No rest rooms inside the fort.

As we stepped out of the palace, we were still reeling under the mammoth-ness of the place and the grande that the place offered.

Overall an experience to wrap you well and leave you talking about it.

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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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Soulful Baul!!!

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A regular Saturday afternoon on the banks of Khoai river, near Shantiniketan is a beautiful setting of the Khoai Hatt every Saturday.  Those tall “Sonajhuri” trees adorned every meter of the ground. Under these lovely trees and as the sun shines right above your head the khoai market gets into a shape. The expanses gets filling up fast with the tribal and the local sellers unpacking and setting up their shops in the regular places. Listening to the argument between two adjacent stalls, I got reminded of the school days when we used to draw a line on the table to say that my neighbour should not cross the border. I laughed as I walked around seeing the various hawkers set up their establishments.

As I walked around, I heard an ektara play, and my head turned as I walked to the direction of the soulful music that played.

It was a hoarse tone to start off with but then the jingling sound of “gungroo” and the UNADJUSTEDRAW_thumb_f6edhol sound mesmerized me as I seem to float towards him. As the man came into view, I was delighted to see the saffron kurta clad man in his own world playing the ektara and singing on…

It did not seem to matter if there were people sitting or listening to him. It did not matter who clapped or not. He seemed to go on with his song, the beautiful baul songs.

As he finished one, he paused adjusted his Gungroo, tightened the ektara sting to the tune he wanted, played with his hairs and beard and clearing his throat went on to sing the next song. I was simply stuck at the simplicity.

As I got up to leave, he did not even bother to acknowledge the only one intently listening leaving. I kept some money and moved on.

It felt as if he was the master here with no strings. I am here to give and do not expect any in return. If you feel like giving, give or else move on.

img_20180428_165439.jpgAs the afternoon moved to evening, had many other Baul singers who IMG_20180428_165521went on with their presentations. One of the them seemed to be slightly modern with CDs of their songs displayed as they kept playing. These artists were more playful with one a banjo like instrument and the second one on the flute while the third one was on the dhol and another couple of them who were busy playing the gungroo. As the tempo went on, I could not stop myself from swinging and dancing along with them. They were so mesmerizing that you will forget where you are. It is one that can only be experienced as it steers your soul.

While their singing was soulful, their dressing sense was equally swag. I just fell in love with their representation and deep connect with the roots.

These songs are mostly from what they see life as and are not written down. It is the Guru-Sishya Parampara that enables the knowledge move from the guru to his disciples. While today, you do have CDs and music available to pick up and listen to them but the ambiance and their presence adds to the overall soulfulness to the baul music. Folksongs at its best and pristine form.

It is an experience not to be missed at all if you happened to be there at Shantiniketan on a Saturday.

As I left the hatt, even though I am a distant relative to the language, the music kept playing on my lips and my hands dancing to the tune.

It is Soulful!!!!

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