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Showing posts from August, 2016

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2023 - The Year That Was

Places impact you for a variety of reasons. And the same place impacts different people in different ways. This is especially true when it comes to spiritual experiences, where every single person’s experience is unique. And personally, every spiritual experience is unique, the same person can have different deeply spiritual experiences at different places, at different times. This thought has emerged because of my own experiences over the years, but especially so this year, with different and unique experiences at various places I have visited recently. I began this year with a visit to Baroda (Vadodara) with friends. It was meant to be a relaxed trip, a touristy trip, with our sons. We enjoyed ourselves to the hilt, but the highlight of that trip was a visit to the Lakulisha temple at Pavagadh. It was the iconography of the temple that I connected with, and I spent a few hours simply lost in the details of the figures carved around the temple. There was an indefinable connect with

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.