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Kabini Part 3 - After the Rains

Visiting Kabini in peak summer, we hadn’t bargained for the rains, which dominated our three days at the Lodge. While animal sightings were understandably lesser than usual, seeing the forest in the rain was an interesting experience in its own way. However, as we headed back into the forest for our second and third safaris, we hoped the rains would let up, and allow us to see more animals! Winding jungle paths

Kabini Part 2 - A Boat Ride

The river Kabini is the heart of the Nagarhole National park, and a boat ride on the river is an integral part of the stay at the Kabini River Lodge. The incessant, unseasonal rainfall had marked our stay so far, and heading to the jetty for our boat ride on our second evening at the lodge, we kept our fingers crossed, hoping for clear skies.  The Jetty... at the Kabini River Lodge

Kabini Part 1 - A Rainy Day

Kabini . There is something magical about the word itself. The landscape is no less magical, with the river running through a lush green terrain, with thick forests and fertile fields. We had seen the river on multiple visits to the region, but the reservoir, and the forest reserve, which are both named for the river, had eluded us, for years. Probably the time hadn’t been right.

A Boat Ride on the Kaveri at Ranganathittu

We first visited the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary in May2014 , when Samhith and I spent a week at Mysore. We visited the sanctuary again this year, at the special request of Samhith, for his birthday! It is amazing how the sanctuary, and the river, never cease to surprise us, with the profusion and variety of avian life. This has been my only birding trip this year, so here are some photos from the boat ride on the Kaveri at Ranganathittu… Grey Heron

My Suryagarh Experience - Once again!

The sound of bells caught our attention, and drew us towards the wide open doors. A simply decorated table stood at the entrance, and everyone seemed to be gathered around it. Nakul beckoned us to join them, and as we approached, we realized that it was the Ganesh Chaturthi puja in progress.

The Temples of Kiradu

A flock of peacocks flew into the bushes as we alighted from our car. Samhith grabbed my camera and followed, trying to capture them on film, while I followed a little more slowly. As the narrow path widened, I caught my first glimpse of the temples of Kiradu.

From Memorial Stones to Guardian-Deities. A tale of many goddesses

Rows of cenotaphs filled the walled enclosure at the Devi Kund Sagar, Bikaner. Built of brown stone, and marble, these were the cenotaphs of the royal family. It was interesting to see that the memorials were different for men and women. The cenotaphs of the men had a standing stone with an image of Lakshmi Narayana carved on them, with detailed inscriptions giving their names, as well as family details, birth and death dates. In sharp contrast, those of women simply had footprints inscribed on stone. Memorial stone in the cenotaph of a man, Devikund Sagar, Bikaner

On a visit to the Border at Jaisalmer

Miles and miles of scrub land loomed ahead, interspersed with glimpses of sand dunes. A narrow path led us deeper into this expanse, and not a soul was to be seen anywhere. We had been driving for what seemed like hours, and I began to wonder just how much farther we were, from our destination. Soon, a tower made its appearance on the horizon, and we were able to see the barbed wire fences, which we had expected to see. It fitted perfectly with our idea of what a border should be like. What we hadn’t expected, was the young woman who waited for us at the fence.

Re-discovering the Thar at Jaisalmer

The first time I visited Jaisalmer , the sand dunes stretched before me, fascinating me with their contours, making me fall in love with the desert and its myriad patterns. The second time, it showed me a different side. It told me of the many stories that lay hidden beneath the sands, of times long gone, and the people who lived here. Earlier this year, as I set out for Jaisalmer once again, I wondered what the desert would show me this time.

Khajuraho Trip Planner

Whenever I think of Khajuraho, it is Dr. Devangana Desai that I first remember. I am transported back to the end of October 2015, when I listened, spellbound, to Dr. Desai, as she spoke about the Religious Imagery of Khajuraho, as part of the Indian Aesthetics course I was pursuing, at Jnanapravaha Mumbai . By the end of the lecture, I was so fascinated by the temples and their iconography, that the first thing I did when I got back home, was to check trains to Khajuraho! When I finally stood at the Kandariya Mahadev Temple two months later, craning my neck up to see as much as I could of the 84 mini- Shikaras, seeing the resemblance to the cave at Kailasa, the sense of awe was  only heightened. Yet, there was an odd sense of fulfillment, seeing the same sense of awe in the eyes of my 12 year old son who accompanied me.

Khajuraho - The Other Heritage

The temples of Khajuraho are so magnificent, that all other monuments in the area pale in comparison. Thus, relatively newer monuments, as well as other forms of heritage, which too deserve recognition, repair and maintenance, tend to get ignored. 

Khajuraho - A Break from Temples, and a Tryst with Nature

When I set out for Khajuraho with my son, I made a deal with him. He would come with me to temples, and I would take him somewhere where there were no temples around.

Khajuraho - More Sculptures, and some thoughts as well!

Writing about Khajuraho was not easy, with so much already written on the temples, by those who have studied them in far more detail than I have. The form my posts eventually took was because of my attempt to classify the sculptures I had seen, to understand them in the wider context of the temples themselves. Now that I have shown you the Forms of Vishnu , Shiva , the Devi , the Ashta Dikpalas and the Ashta Vasus , let me show you a few sculptures which fit into none of these categories, but fascinated me all the same, for many reasons, and brought up a lot more thoughts as well, starting with this image of Kartikeya. Kartikeya, Lakshmana Temple

The Power of 8 - The Ashta Dikpalas and Ashta Vasus at Khajuraho

The four cardinal directions form the axis on which a temple is built, and are thus the basis of temple architecture. Leading from them are the eight directions, which are believed to be guarded by the eight guardians, or Ashta Dikpalas . In the temples of Khajuraho, great care has been taken by the sculptors to carve the Ashta Dikpalas on the walls, both inside and outside. They not only guard the temple, but also look over us as we circumambulate the shrine, protecting us by their presence. They are augmented by the Ashta Vasus , celestial beings which represent natural phenomena. Together, they enhance the idea of the temple as cosmos, enfolding within it, all the aspects of nature, both, on earth, as well in space.

Khajuraho - Forms of Devi

One of the most impressive forms of the Devi at Khajuraho is on the outer wall of the Lakshmana Temple. Yogeshwari, Or Ambika... or Durga. 

Khajuraho - Forms of Shiva

Shiva, at Khajuraho , like almost everywhere else, is worshipped in the form of a Lingam. No matter how elaborate and intricate the temple and its sculptures, in the sanctum stands his aniconic form. Lingam in the sanctum of the Vishwanatha Temple

Khajuraho - Forms of Vishnu

I have written about the temples of Khajuraho , and as the philosophy behind them . Yet, there is so much more to see and appreciate, so let me show you the temples through a different lens - by taking you on a visual journey of the temples through their amazing sculptures, identifying some  of the many forms in which deities are portrayed. I begin with the various Forms of Vishnu.. ....

Khajuraho - The Temple as Cosmos

The temples at Khajuraho are , at once, awe-inspiring by their size and architectural splendour; and overwhelming by the profusion and intricacy of the detailing. There is something to admire at every level – from the minutest details only seen up close, to the overall effect as seen from afar, or, in a modern parlance, from the micro the macro scale.

The Magnificent Temples of Khajuraho - Looking beyond the erotic

Jaws dropped in astonishment when I announced that I was taking my 12 year old son to Khajuraho. A barrage of questions followed. “Are you sure?” “Isn’t he too young?” “How will you explain all those erotic sculptures?” Even family members shook their heads and sighed in resignation, as I stood resolute, secure in my assertion that there was more to Khajuraho than just the erotic sculptures!

Khajuraho - The Unexpected

Khajuraho . The very name conjures up exotic images of erotic art on temple walls. However, there is so much more to Khajuraho than just the erotic, or even just temples. Last December, Samhith and I spent three days at Khajuraho, exploring as much of the ancient town as we could, and over the next few weeks, I shall try to show you the Khajuraho that we saw, beginning with this photo clicked at the Kandariya Mahadev Temple. The Kandariya Mahadev is one of the most impressive temples at Khajuraho, and it’s the details which make it so impressive. This particular figure is of Agni, the God of Fire. Here, though, he is one of the Ashta-Dikpalas , the guardians of the 8 directions. Agni guards the South-East, and it’s his placement on the South East wall of the temple, which allows us to identify him here. Notice the finer details, such as his beard…. These photos are among my favourites; among the hundreds I clicked at Khajuraho, thanks to this female Plum-Headed

Lonar - The Crater Lake : Meteor, Myth, Monuments

So many shades of green – from the bright green of the leaves to the dull green mixed with brown of the mountains. Even the lake was green, though it was difficult to decide if it was the colour of the water, or simply the reflection. As the setting sun cast its last light of the day on the water, the lake appeared to be a jewel, hidden away in the mountains. We were at Lonar, the site of India’s only meteoric crater lake, and from my vantage point on the balcony of the MTDC resort, as I watched the shades of green grow dark and disappear into the darkness, I wondered if I would be able to climb down the crater and discover some of the mysteries it held.

The Vultures of Orchha

I have already written about the monuments and art of Orchha. However, this series on Orchha will be incomplete without one post dedicated to the Vultures of Orchha!

The Vibrant Art of Orchha

At first glance, Orchha is all about the grand monuments that tower over the town, and present magnificent views across the Betwa river. Then, we listen to its stories, and are swayed by the twists in its history, its association with so many interesting personages, who have left their footprints behind. There are, however, even more stories waiting to be heard, but which can only be seen, when you look closer, at the art of Orccha.

Orchha , The Land of Legends and Monuments

Long, long ago , a king went hunting in the forest, and found himself separated from his entourage. Following the sound of flowing water, he arrived on the banks of the Betwa, where he saw a sage meditating. Being a respectful man, he waited for the sage to open his eyes. The sage soon became aware of the king’s presence, and blessed him, directing him to the place where his soldiers waited. But the sage did the king a service beyond just pointing him in the right direction. He told him that this land on the riverbank was a sacred spot, the erstwhile capital of an ancient city. It was time for the land to flourish once again, and the king returned to build his new capital here. The king prospered, as did his dynasty, which rose to great prominence, ruling from here. However, this too, wasn’t to last forever. The dynasty declined, and so did the town, settling back into a state of inconsequence. Till it revived again, once more, this time welcoming, not royals, but visitors

Around Gwalior - The Majestic Palace at Datia

“Datia mein aap kya dekhenge? Wahan dekhne layak kuch bhi nahin hai” (What will you see in Datia? There is nothing to see there). That was our driver, and it was a refrain we had heard often. Ignoring him was easy. Finding our way to the palace at Datia, was not.

Around Gwalior - The Chausath Yogini Temple at Mitavali

We caught our first glimpse of the temple when Samhith stopped to play in a canal cutting across the road. 

Around Gwalior - A Riot of sculptures at Padhavali

We stood at the gate, surprised to find a fort instead of a temple. The driver urged us inside, assuring us that the temple was indeed there. As we walked in slowly, looking at the fragments of pillars and carved stones which lined the path, a well-built man came forward. “I am the caretaker here” he introduced himself. “Do you want me to take you around?” he asked. There didn’t seem to be guides around, or anyone else for that matter, so we agreed, and began our exploration of the Garhi Padhavali.

Around Gwalior - The Temple complex at Batesar

The rutted road led up to an inconspicuous gate. Our driver stopped and nodded towards it. “You can go in. I will stay here” he said. “Don’t you want to come in?” I asked, and he laughed. “Madam, there is nothing to see, just broken temples. Hardly anyone comes here. You can go and see for yourself that there is nothing much to see.” I could have told him that we were here to see just those ruined temples, that they excited us more than new temples did. But I kept quiet and let him settle down for a nap, while Samhith and I walked in, to see the Batesar (or Bateswar or Bateshwar) Group of Temples.

Some Incidental Birdwatching in Gwalior

Now that I have finished writing about Gwalior, it is time to move out, to all the other interesting places around. However, before I begin my posts on the sites around Gwalior, which are going to be all about our built heritage, it is time to take a break to look at our natural heritage, just waiting to be seen around us... like birds, for example!  I can’t remember the last time I went bird-watching . But, wherever I go, I do see birds... lots of them. The Gwalior trip was no different, and we frequently stopped, on the road as well as within the fort, hearing the call of some bird. It surely irritated our guides and our drivers, and while some grumbled, others simply stared at us in astonishment! These birds aren’t exotic, and they aren’t rare. Yet, it’s always a delight to see them, which is why deserve a post to themselves! And so, here are some birds we saw, in and around Gwalior!  Peacocks we saw in plenty, almost everywhere we went. But this one was the best. He posed

Gwalior Part 7: The Jai Vilas Palace Museum

This was one of the few places in Gwalior that wasn’t on my list. The magic word “Museum” was tempting, but we had lots more interesting places to visit. However, an unexpected local holiday changed our plans and we found ourselves with a few hours in our hand. We were staying at the MP Tourism hotel by then, and the staff were stunned that we hadn’t visited the Jai Vilas Palace Museum as yet. And so we succumbed, and found an auto to take us there.

Gwalior Part 6: The Tombs of Tansen and Muhammad Ghaus

Sunlight streams in through the fine stone Jaalis, transforming the gloomy interiors, throwing bright patterns on the hard, cold floors. The Jaalis themselves shine against the light, as if studded with thousands of diamonds. Soft instrumental music playing in the background completes the picture, and for just a moment, I am transported back in time, when the passages I am walking through would have resounded to musical notes, played and sung by the greatest of musicians. It is late afternoon, and I am at the tomb of Muhammad Ghaus, in Gwalior, the spiritual mentor of Tansen, as the Tansen Music festival is in progress. I couldn’t possibly have chosen a better time.

Gwalior Part 5: The Gujari Mahal Museum

Man Singh Tomar was one of the greatest rulers of Gwalior. He was not just an excellent warrior, known for his prowess in the field, but he was also a great patron of the arts. His love for music is legendary, and his palace, the Man Mandir is an architectural triumph which stands tall even today. However, the story most often told and retold at Gwalior is that of his marriage to Mrignayani.

Gwalior Part 4: The Temples of Gwalior Fort

“Everything here is massive! ” was the recurrent thought as we explored Gwalior fort. First the colossal Jaina sculptures , then the monuments within the fort , and now the temples. They are impressive at first glance by their sheer size, but looking closer, there are so many intricate details on the smallest scale that amazement turns to awe at the talent and artisan-ship of those who built them. There are two such huge temples on the hill, both part of the Gwalior fort – the so-called Sas-Bahu temples and the Teli ka Mandir, both of which have interesting sources for their names!  

Gwalior Part 3 : The Other Monuments of Gwalior Fort

The Man Mandir was a revelation, in terms of architecture, design, as well as ornamentation. No wonder it was the place everyone flocked to. But there was more to Gwalior fort, monuments built by the other rulers. They might not match the grandeur of Man Mandir, but they were reminders of others who left their imprints on the city. They were worth a glimpse, and short of time, we rushed through them.  

Gwalior Part 2 : The Fort - Man Mandir Palace

Gwalior . The name, it is said in legends, comes from the sage Gwalipa, who lived here in the 8 th century. 

Gwalior Part 1: The Colossal Jinas

To say that we were awed by Gwalior , would be putting it mildly.

Deo Bagh, Gwalior - The Neemrana Experience

I opened the door, shivering slightly as I felt the winter chill, despite my layers of clothing. A peacock ambled past, and I reached for my camera, all set to follow it, the cold completely forgotten. The peacock, however, was much quicker than me, and by the time I had carefully navigated the short stretch of lawn, it had disappeared into the bushes.  A peacock ambles past, least bothered by our presence I simply stood there, looking at the contrasting scene around – behind me was the neatly laid out garden, around it the quaint rooms which made up the hotel; and right in front of me was a wilder version, the grass and trees allowed to grow untamed, hiding behind them vestiges of history. “This is what the place would have once looked like” I thought, and felt rather glad that it had been allowed to remain the same. That was the moment I knew that I had made the right choice – that I was going to enjoy my stay, albeit a short one, at Deo Bagh, the Neemrana propert

Back after a long break

195 days .  That’s how long it is since I wrote my last post. In the 9 years that I have been blogging, I have taken breaks, but this is the longest I have ever been able to stay away. Usually, it is writers block which keeps me away, and the itch to write which brings me back. This time, however, has been different, which is also the reason it has taken me so long to get back. The year so far has been interesting, and eventful. The first half of the year kept me busy, first with a trip to Delhi, Gwalior, Orchha and Khajuraho, then my course in Indian Aesthetics from Jnanapravaha Mumbai, and finally, a trip down South, to Chennai, Madurai and Trichy. Returning from my trips, I had assignments to complete, and lots of pending work at home. Now that my course is over, as are the travels, and my son is busy with school work once again, I finally have time on hand. And so, here I am, back to blogging! While I think about what to write, and, more importantly, where to begin the