Saturday, September 26, 2015

Khajuraho The Land of Love Temples

The TT looked at me and asked for the ticket. "You should be in a general coach," he spoke nonchalantly without even looking at me.

"Where am I?" I looked at the maddening mass of humanity piled up mercilessly inside the coach crushing each other for whatever space available.   

"Worse than a general coach," I mutter.

"That will be 340 Rs", as he began preparing the receipt.   

For nearly the same  price I could have enjoyed the AC coach and the ensuing luxury and safety.  

After three hours of standing at one corner of the coach the express finally reaches Satna in Central India. From here onward it was a long and agonizing wait for the filming crew to arrive from Mumbai. "The train is three hours late an we will arrive at 9.30 PM". Kiran the ace photographer called me up.

Dance Festival Khajuraho
The journey towards Khajuraho is riddled with potholes. The torturous drive halts at Nagod for a tea and ciggy break. It is almost 11 PM and I am bone tired. After long expectation we halt at a Dhaba at 1.00 pm for some mouth watering food.

"Amazing at this time of the night".  Our driver had long convinced us to have supper here and it was rewarding.

Khajuraho Temple
We than proceed to Khajuraho through the Panna National Park and eventually reach Taj Hotel Chandela. The night staff is waiting for me and ushers me into my room. "Sleep Well Sir, the attendant wishes me politely. The main stay here has been warmed up by extremely courteous and attentive staff and delicious food.  I am thankful to Poonam Uppal for hosting me in five star luxury. She is the author of "A Passionaate Gospel of True Love".           

Temple at Khajuraho
I glimpse in absolute amazement at the group of temples that date back to 10th Century AD perhaps earlier. "Treatise on Tantric Sex," Mamaji one of the senior most guide of Khajuraho. The erotic carvings are on the outer walls of Hindu Temples. "Absolute freedom of expression in that conservative era," I speak to Mamaji.

"This extreme ecstasy portrayed here is divinity." He informs me as I peek at bizzare carvings of  the erotic kind.  People from World over come to see these magical wonders in stone. "The structures are skilfully interlocked without the use of any cementing material," Mamaji is a gold mine of information.

The quaint little town engulfs the temples of love and supports a population of about 18000 locals.
Natural Cave Panna by Jagat Flora

The museum is humid and suffocating but not the exuberant pieces of tribal art. I gloat at the art on the walls before I am called for what I came here for.

I was anchoring an interview with the celebrity author Poonam Uppal. For all three days I am involved with the video shoot. A brief reprieve being lunch at Ken River Lodge at Panna Tiger Reserve and a boat ride on tranquil waters of crocodile infested Ken River.           
Panna Gorge by Jagat Flora

At Khauraho, the temples appear as neat structures, as they truly are, and carry an enigmatic message of love in its most divine form. All through, I did not find anything banal on those exquisite carvings.
This destination along with the tiger reserve is a  must add on one's wish list. Other places of interest nearby are the Panna National Park 35 km, Kalinjar Fort, Raneh & Pandav Falls, Ken River Sanctuary and Panna Township.

How to reach? From New Delhi By air and rail (overnight). From Jhansi (UP) by road. From Jabalpur via Satna by rail and then by road.   

All other images by courtesy Nandita Amin

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Of Indian Architecture: Symmetry & Geometry

The geometry and symmetry in construction are as a result of extreme planning, conceptualization of design and a startling trilogy of creativity included. Indian architecture incorporates diverse elements beside simple lines and curvatures. Cosmic elements, religious symbols, voluptuous damsels, floral motifs; structural grandeur, diverse cultural impacts all encompassing assimilation into the final product that has resulted in landmark monuments many of which are of World fame while some pop up as surprise. 

This is what an article in MSN India speaks of. In a changed language I describe in a less fluent language the monumental structures in my blog. 

 Breathtaking Example of Indian Masonry:

 Taj Mahal
It is not only a magnanimous symbol of love, the intricate carving, amazing patterns, floral motifs, all amidst unfettered symmetry that is simply astounding. This is Moghul Architecture at its best in India.       
Nicke James - Taj at Agra

Ranakpur - Jain Temples

The Chaturmukha Temple exhibits astounding symmetry in amalgamation of spiritual numbers into intricate geometrical patterns. The temple dedicated to Lord Adinath makes visible the idol from any point inside the structure due to placement of 1000 plus pillars typical of Western Indian Architecture. Typical to this style are the spokes on ceilings interspersed with ornate motifs and dancing Apsaras. These features are much suggestive of colors and freedom of expression of living in India.  

Sun Temple Modhera 

The structure comprises of three elements integrated to perfection. The idol has been desecrated by the plunderer Mahmud Gazhni long  time back. The step well or Surya Kund is intricately carved with shrines on each step leading to the water. The vivid geometrical pattern forming equilateral triangle is the striking feature of this structure. The many pillared (52) Sabha Gruh is another element that has cosmic relevance and extols the Hindu calender.       

Shaniwar Wada Palace 

The seat of Peshwa Rulers, this palace in Pune has architecture with a unique design. The attractive feature is the Hazari Karanje or thousand jet fountain. The garden is also beautifully manicured and comprises of geometrical patterns.  

City Palace Udaipur 

This is a large complex with many palatial elements. In fact a series of palaces are assimilated in the larger complex. The architecture is amalgamation of  Mughal, Rajasthani, Chinese and European Styles. A museum of fine art the palace comprises of intricately carved cupolas, balconies and towers part of the darbar hall, temples and living quarters of the Royals.  

Ellora Caves  Aurangabad 

The rock cut caves exhibit beautifully done murals and carvings depicted three religions namely Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. 

Veer Narayana Temple Belvadi 

The architecture was named after the Hoysala Rulers who built many temples. These were either one, two or three shrines while a few were multi-shrines. The ceiling panels are carved with celestial figures and soldiers.

Red Fort - New Delhi   

Built entirely of red sand stone is a later date Mughal Architecture and displays both symmetrical and asymmetrical patterns. The former can be seen at Diwan-E-Aam and Rang Mahal while the walls of the fort exhibit the latter style.

Chand Baori - Abhaneri 

The thirteen story deep step well in Rajasthan is one of the largest in the World. The equilateral triangles formed on the steps are amazing besides the other geometrical forms are rhombus and diagonal lines. The thousand year old structure was the main source of water to local inhabitants. 

Bhoganandeeshwara Temple - Nandi Hills 

The monolithic stone pillars convey symmetry typical to Dravidian Style of Architecture in Southern India. Dedicated to Lord Shiva it is most revered edifice built around 9 Century AD. 

Rani Ki Vav - Patan - Gujarat

An excellent example of Gujarat's Subterranean Architecture it is an inverted temple besides being a step well. The idol of Lord Vishnu is visible from many angles of the seven layered stairs. The stairs are intricately carved with floral motifs and incarnation of Hindu deities.

Ancient Indian Edifices

Hawa Mahal Rajasthan

Jantar Mantar - Delhi & Jaipur 

These are two structures built by Raja Jaisingh to calculate many celestial and solar phenomena and activities. These observatories were used to predict eclipses and calculate various event using complex instruments (structures) formed using simple geometrical lines.    

The MSN Article

Friday, June 19, 2015

Tea Time India - Tea & Snacks

Tea and Snacks go hand in hand in India. You can describe them as fritters or pakoras but there are many more to relish.  Snacks are something which are part of life here, in between meals you can call them. They are had with tea, with drinks and cocktails or just any time any moment.   

India is a diverse country and probably all things are steeped deep in the diversity. So are the yummy snacks and min boggling variety of tea blends. From chai stall snacks of samosas, aloo bondas and pakoras the choice extends to sophisticated home finger foods to that churned by elite restaurant with some phoren recipes.

One of the snack that has Western origin is the sandwich and is being followed by burgers and what not. Cutlet is another popular snack especially available in Indian Coffee Houses and Tea Lounges. This delicacy is not known to the Westerners...before you get the notion.

Tea in India comes as thousands of blends some as masala chai or spiced tea. The variety of leaves available offer the common mind boggling flavors of the tea. Chai as it is called in the country is consumed not only in the morning and with high tea it is drunk whole day long. 
Photo Courtesy:   Wagh Bakri Tea Company
Tea & Snacks

Cardamom Chai

Darjeeling Green Tea
Wagh Bakri Tea Lounge


Some of the snacks can also be consumed as full meals. These Dahi Vada, Idli, Vada, Dosai which are part of a meal be it lunch or dinner. In some big towns people snack late in the night a habit which has disastrous effect on health.  

In the images below you will find chai and snacks appealing enough for you to head for the kitchen. 

Sev Usal



Dahi Vada
Photo Courtsey: Nandita Amin

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Destination Bandhavgarh - A Wildlife Lover's Delight

Tucked away in remote access of Central India Bandhavgarh is the land of the tiger. Things do not end here the destination offers some of most ancient and exotic architecture amidst overgrown wilderness. Dating as far as 2000 year back the numerous artifacts and structures are lying untended all over the place.  
Fort Entrance

The fort built by the Gond Rulers is called Bandhavgarh hence the name of the park. The idols and structures are an archeologists delight albeit the fort is no more only scattered remains exist. There is an ancient Ram Janki Temple facing the park.  

The gate a looming arch is suggestive of large encampment that must have been manned by a retinue of  sentinels always at war with the invaders. The zoomorphic idols of Lord Vishnu are a treat to discover. Made of igneous rock they depict Vishnu in form of animals    

Temple at Fort Complex
The remote location and inaccessible terrain must have acted as a hideaway for the numerous dynasties that came to rule over its dizzy heights. A mile below the campus is Shesh Shaiyya a reclining idol of Lord Vishnu besides a fairy pool surrounded by verdant greenery in betwixt the dense forests on the slopes. The Charanganga originates from the mountains and drops down to the plains. It creates slushy meadows as it meanders between the low lying hills covered with dense vegetation. This is the land of the tiger and leopard the big cats that roam Central India. The climb to reclining Vishnu is steep and needs experts to drive up. The erstwhile Maharjahs of Rewa Estate nearby were regular visitors to the Fort. Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve was the shikargah of their domain and hence received lot of protection.       

Ram Janki Temple
The hunting preserve was declared as a protected area in the year nineteen sixty eight. It was given the status of a National Park and eventually brought under the aegis of a Project Tiger.       

Bison were relocated from Kanha National Park after the original stock had died down due to disease.   Other animals to  be seen here are the dhole, leopard, sloth bear, nilgai, sambar, spotted deer, barking deer and four horned deer.  Wild boar, peacock and langur are a common sight besides many avian species.
Sesh Shaiyya
ManMade Reservoir

Male Tiger

There are more than two hundred fifty bird species to be found in the tiger reserve. Reptiles are nocturnal but on rare occasion a python could be seen. Other nocturnal animals and the less seen ones are ruddy mongoose, small Indian civet, pangolin, toddy cat, ratel to name a few. 

The park is open from  October 16 to June 30th every year. Most tourist prefer winter months for tiger safari. But lot of holiday crowd arrives during summer whence tiger visibility increases slightly. 
Tiger in Water

The preserve is located in Umaria District about four hours drive from Jabalpur Airport and Railhead. Road connectivity exists from many nearby towns.

Tourism is well organized in the park. For accommodation there are many wildlife resorts in Bandhavgarh which are economic. There are many luxury hotels which are expensive but preferable. A couple five star and three hotels also provide accommodation to up market crowd.   Government accommodation are few and reserved only for state employees and VIP.

Khajuraho can be reached from here which is about eight hours drive by road. About 45 km from Khajuraho is the Panna Tiger Reserve another tiger heaven.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

India Ancient Delights - Through Lens of Amateur


Chhatris at Orchha


Orchha Fort

Fort Complex 

Ganesh Idol Khajuraho

Photographer at Jehangir Mahal Orchha

Kalinjar Fort

Kanlinjar Fort gate

Kalinjar Fort

Kandariya Mahadev Temple

Khajuraho Dence Festival

Mural at Orchha Palace

Mural at Raja Mahal

Orchha Cenotaph

Fort View Orchha 

Orchha Garden

Rajah Mahal Corridor


Raneh Falls Ken River Chhattarpur

Maintaining a travel blog means just that Well I cannot afford to do that so often hence I publish images of my face book friends with their knowledge. 

Over a period of time I have realized that one need not be a professional photographer...for what you do with passionate zeal. It brings out the best in the images. The photographer Nandita Amin from Baroda I believe is an avid traveler and a foodie, both the passions go side by side as I realize from her face book activities.     

Here are some of her travel photos from Central India.  She has exquisitely portrayed images of  ancient monuments a memorable record of one among many of her exotic journeys.