Wednesday, May 24, 2017

MP Diaries - National Chambal Sanctuary, Home to Critically Endangered Gharial

On day 11 of our road trip to Madhya Pradesh, we decided to visit the Chambal Sanctuary after reading about it being home to the critically endangered Gharial, Red Crowned Roof Turtle and  the Indian Skimmer. Though the fog continued to be deterrent, we decided to visit there and check it out. We reached Chambal with a lot of hope of sighting the Gharial and Indian skimmer, but the forest guard here informed us initially during our discussion that spotting a Gharial in such weather is next to impossible, though we had great chances of spotting the beautiful Indian Skimmer. We decided to continue with our boat safari, hoping to spot some good water birds. River Chambal flows across 3 states - Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh and the entire region is declared as a national sanctuary. There are many spots along the river managed independently by the state forest department. This is considered to be the longest river national sanctuary in India and also the cleanest. The entire area around this river until recently (2007) was under the control of the infamous dacoits of Chambal, including the popular bandit queen Phoolan Devi, which is probably one of reasons that this region has remained pristine. The boat safari was unique and we spotted many birds such as the Indian Skimmer, River Lapwing, Red Wattled Lapwing, Gulls, Bar Headed Geese, Sociable Lapwing, Crab Plover, Green Sandpiper, Spotted Owls, Montagu Harrier,  Ruddy Shelduck (Brahminy Duck), Little Ringed Plover, Thick Knee and many more. We also got an opportunity of spotting a few Red Crowned Roof Turtle. 
 Bar Headed Geese
Welcomed by Bar Headed Geese 
First Look of the Indian Skimmers 
Indian Skimmers
Aah! Orangeeee!!!
Green Sandpiper
Green Sandpiper 
Foggy Day 
Red Wattled Lapwing
Red Wattled Lapwing 
River Lapwing 
Indian Skimmers
Resting after a Flight 
Indian Skimmers
Indian Skimmers in Flight 
Red Crowned Roof Turtle
Red Crowned Roof Turtle 
National Chambal Sanctuary, Madhya Pradesh
National Chambal Sanctuary, Madhya Pradesh 
Brahminy Duck 
Great Thick Knee 
How to reach Chambal:  Travel on Gwalior - Agra Highway, about 60 km from Gwalior and 70 km from Agra. This is the northern most point of Madhya Pradesh, bordering Rajasthan. There is a small setup by Madhya Pradesh forest department for the benefit of tourists. 
Entry Fee:  A. Rs 100/- per head for Indians and Rs 600/- per head for Foreigners, entry for kids below 12 years is free, while the others are charged full.
B. Boat ride - There are 3 slabs, though the price is not fixed, it may vary as per the prevailing rules of the forest department and availability of boats; wearing a life jacket is compulsory. Package includes the guide fee.   
    1. 3 km one way - Rs.1750/- per boat for the entire trip 
    2. 5 km one way - Rs.2050/- per boat for the entire trip
    3. 8 km one way - Rs.2750/- per boat for the entire trip  
Accommodation: There is no accommodation here, though there are a few lodges in the near by town of Dholpur (Rajasthan). Better option would be to stay in Gwalior/Agra and cover it as a day trip. 
Where to eat: There are no places to eat in the vicinity of this national park, Dholpur is the closest town with many options. Kindly plan accordingly. 
PS: A new page has been added to our blog, which has a collection of our Vlogs. Click here to view.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

MP Diaries - Gwalior , The Crown of Madhya Pradesh

A chilly Gwalior welcomed us after a hectic drive from Shivpuri. The temperature here was below 10 degree centigrade, typical of the Northern Indian climate in January. We checked into Hotel Ambassador and decided to rest for the day due to the weather and the temperature only kept going down, creating uneasiness to our little one. As he started to catch cold, he became more uncomfortable and woke up from his sleep crying loud. We tried to comfort him and gave him the required medicines. As the hotels there did not have a heater installed in rooms, we had no other choice but to request for a separate heater and only wished their response was positive. Fortunately, he obliged to the request and did the needful, which helped us much that night. Our little one felt much better after getting the room heater and slept peacefully for rest of the night. We woke up late the next morning only to realize it was totally foggy outside and decided to stay indoors until the situation improved. We stepped out at around 10.30 am to check out the town of Gwalior, though it remained foggy with a slight drizzle too.
Gwalior Fort
This is How Gwalior Fort Looked at Noon 
Gwalior always has been in our list of places to visit for various reasons, right from its role in India's first war of Independence to the Nanda dynasty rule of Pataliputra during early 6th century BC. The state of Gwalior rose to prominence with Chieftain Suraj Sen. He met saint Gwalipa who lived on the hilltop where the fort now stands and was cured of his disease by the saint. In return, Suraj Sen founded the city and named it after the saint. Thus Gwalior was founded. Man Singh Tomar, the great ruler of Tomar dynasty improved the fort here and built the most famous palace of Gwalior, the Man Mandir Palace. Later this fort was captured by the Mughals and remained under them for a long period, after which in 1810, it came under the control of the Scindia dynasty and finally the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, led by Tantya Tope and  strongly supported by Rani Lakshmi Bai. Both the brave warriors gave up their lives during the struggle for independence of this great country.
The Scindia Chhatris: The lesser known Chhatri complex of Scindia rulers stands mute in the busy lanes of Gwalior. This was the first place we visited in Gwalior and reaching this place was easy. We were greeted by two huge and magnificent cenotaphs. The larger Chhatri was built in 1817 to commemorate Maharaja Jiyaji Rao Scindia and the smaller Chhatri was built in 1843 in memory of Maharaja Janakaji Scindia.
Scindia Chhatris of Gwalior
Maharaja Jiyaji Rao Scindia Chhatri 
Gwalior Fort: This most impressive structure of Madhya Pradesh is built on a small hillock. Other monuments inside the fort are the Man Mandir Palace, Hathi Pol, Karn Mahal, Vikram Mahal, Gujari Mahal, Shah Jahan Mahal, Jahangeer Mahal and many such.
Gwalior Gate
Qila Gate/ Gwalior Gate 
Blue Tiled Walls of Gwalior Fort 
Man Mandir Mahal
Inside Man Mandir Palace 
Saas-Bahu Temple (Mother-in-law Daughter-in-law Temple): Built in the 11-12th century by Mahipala Kachhwaha, this temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
Saas - Bahu Temple Complex, Gwalior
Saas - Bahu Temple Complex 
Chaturbhuj Temple: Here is the world's first written zero found! The inscribed slab is believed to be of a much earlier period than the temple which was built by Pratiharas in 9th century.
Chaturbhuj Temple 
World's First Written Zero
World's First Written Zero 
 Teli Ka Mandir: This 9th century temple built by Pratiharas is the tallest temple, with its unusual shikhara.
Teli Ka Mandir, Gwalior
Teli Ka Mandir 
Jain Rock Cut Temples:  These were built over 800 years, from the 7th century and are dedicated to various Jain Tirthankaras. The tallest murti (idol) here is that of the first Jain Tirthankara, Adinath.
Lord Adinath
Moti Mahal: This 19th century palace built by the Scindia kings was the Secretariat of Madhya Bharat government back then. There is a beautiful garden with a neatly done network of fountains in front of this palace.
Moti Mahal, Gwalior
Moti Mahal 
Tomb of Mohammad Ghaus: This huge building crowned with a large dome is dedicated to the 16th century Muslim saint Mohammad Ghaus.
Tomb of Mohammad Ghaus
 Tomb of Tansen: It is a small tomb dedicated to the greatest classical singer Tansen, who was the leading singer in Akbar’s court. He was also one among the navaratnas (nine gems). The tomb is in the same complex as that of the Tomb of Mohammad Ghaus and is much smaller in size. The tomb is located besides a tamarind tree, whose leaves were chewed by Miyan Tansen for a sweet voice.
Tomb of Tansen and Famed Tamarind Tree 
Light and Sound Show:  Every evening the MPSTDC runs an hour’s light and sound show at the Man Mandir Palace inside the fort in the two languages of Hindi and English.
Lit Gwalior Fort during Light and Sound Show
Lit Gwalior Fort 
Others Places to Visit: Jai Vilas Palace Museum, Nag Dev Mandir, various parks, and many more.
Entry Fee: The Entry fee collected for various sites are as below,
A. Man Mandir Palace - Rs 15/- for Indians and Rs 200/- for Foreigners
B. Royal enclosure - Rs 15/- for Indians and Rs 200/- for Foreigners
C. Gujari Mahal/ ASI Museum - Rs 5/- for all, Monday Holiday
D. Light and Sound Show - Rs 100/- for all
E. Jai Vilas Palace Museum - Rs 60/- for Indians and Rs 350/- for Foreigners
Accommodation:- We stayed for a day at Hotel Ambassador which offered very basic amenities and held a decent and friendly staff, though not very clean. Our second day accommodation was at Hotel Shelter, a bit upscale hotel with nice ambiance, centrally located, mid-range and friendly staff. Being a popular tourist destination, there are many options tailored to meet the varying budgets. Hotel Tansen Residency is another good one being maintained by MPSTDC.
Where to eat: Options are many. There should be no difficulty in finding a suitable place for meals.
1. RBS visitors Guide India Madhya Pradesh
2. DK Eyewitness Travel India

PS: A new page has been added to our blog, which has a collection of our Vlogs. Click here to view.

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