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.
 References:
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.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Neolithic Ash Mounds of Kudatini, Bellary Karnataka

Our wish of visiting the Kudatini Ash Mound was long due, and somehow the plan did not materialize during any of our previous visits to this region. This time around, when we got chance to visit Bellary, we made sure to visit this place. Kudatini has always been a top choice for visit for two reasons - The Ash Mound and Lord Brahma temple. Early one morning, we started off from Bellary towards Kudatini and as we crossed Kudatini, we reached the Bellary Thermal Power Station, which was the noted landmark. Once we crossed the BTPS, a yellow board caught our attention and bang on, we are in front of the site of the ash mound. We found a place to park our vehicle and explored the place.
Ballari Thermal Power Station
Ballari Thermal Power Station
"The Ash-mound at Budikanama Pass on Ballari - Hospet road, near Ballari Thermal Power Station, is the largest among the surviving Neolithic period Ash-mound (3000- 1500 BCE) in South India. The mound represents pastoral society's ritual activity centre, including burial activity. A multi-legged burnt clay coffin known as Sarcophagus was excavated by Archaeologists from this site. The sarcophagus contained the mortal remains of a 7 year old young adult along with burial goods such as bi-chrome globular pots bearing graffiti marks. The earliest known symbolic writing known from the region is at 1500 years older than the written language in south India. Oldest written records issued by Emperor Ashoka are found near Kurugodu-Siriguppa region about 30 kilometers from here”, as per the information board put up here. Ash mounds are majorly concentrated in the central region of Karnataka and united Andhra Pradesh. There are many such sites that are in neglect and vanishing every day.  Many farmers believe this ash to be of high nutrition values to plants, providing all the major secondary nutrients and micro nutrients to the plants.
Archaeological Site 
Kudatini Ash Mound
Kudatini Ash Mound 
Hard Outer Surface of the Ash Mound 
There are various theories behind the Ash-mound formation. While none really give the correct explanation, locals believe them to be the burial of demons killed by various gods, linking it to epics such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Few archaeologists believe that once the pre-historic people decided to move to other places, the wastes/leftovers were gathered at a place and burnt. The ash being constantly exposed to sun light and rain has eventually hardened to form a strong and hard structure from outside. The softness of the ash can be felt when investigated carefully. Few other archaeologists believe that the mounds are a result of the continuously kept burning dungs or other waste materials in order to keep the wild animals away. But then, finding burial remains and other related artefacts  have proved to be challenging to the above theories. Nevertheless, until and after the exact reason has been known behind these ash mounds, the site needs to be well preserved and subjected to further studies. Sadly, the every now and then happening road expansions of the highway pose an additional threat to the site.
The Ash
The Young Archaeologist at Work
Related Posts : 

References:
1. The book "Hampi Parisarada Aadhimanavana NelegaLu" written by Dr. L. Srinivas 
2. Journeys Across Karnataka

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

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

In Search of Kanakagiri's Ashokan Edicts - 3

Following the guide's directions, we reached the base of the Lakshmi Narasimha hill. From hereon we started our climb to the top, where the edicts were supposed  to be present. We had to cross the path laid through dry thorny shrubs. It took us about 40 minutes to reach the top of this hill after which our guide took us towards the shelter. We were shocked to see that the entire area was vandalized  and there was no signs of any inscription as mentioned by  the guide. He too was surprised to see the entire area in this condition as he was sure of the presence of some  inscriptions on a  slab here, which  now was not be seen. We decided to explore the entire area with a hope to find some thing interesting.
Climb to Lakshmi Narasimha Hill 
Surviving the Thorny Shrubs 
Bird's Eye View of Lakshmi Narasimha Temple 
Carving of Vishnu's Feet 
Vandalised Mandapa 
But there was no luck in finding any edicts or clues regarding the same. We chose a different path to descend but the thorny shrubs and the warm sun added more pain during our descent. Our guide also mentioned about a ruined Venkateshwara temple situated close by. We decided to check it out and on reaching here, we realised that the temple has completely been vandalized owing to communal tensions during the 1970's. What ever remains today gives us a glimpse of the  grand temple that once stood here . The architecture resembled that of the Kanakachalapathi temple, also built here.  There are 2 beautiful small stone chariots here giving us the flavor of Vijayanagara Architecture. 
Stone Chariot of Kanakagiri 
Venkateshwara Temple
The last spot that we wanted to visit in Kanakagiri was the Venkatappana Baavi, a royal bath built by Venkatappa Nayaka. This royal bath has been artistically designed and is a feast for the eyes. We spent quite a good time exploring this well and admiring the architectural skills possessed by our forefathers. The sad part is that this well is in state of neglect and needs immediate attention. There is a popular local saying in this area that, "people with eyes must see Kanakagiri and those with with legs must see Hampi", implying that Kanakagiri temples are a delight to the eyes and one needs to walk about tirelessly to see the vast expanse of the ruined Hampi. Meanwhile, a friend of ours accompanied by his friend who is a local of Kanakagiri reached Venkatappana Baavi. The local person confirmed that he checked with a few others who are well versed with the history of Kanakagiri and confirmed to us that no such edicts as the ones we were in search of, exist here. Thus concluding our search of Kanakagiri's Ashokan Edicts, which still remains elusive. We spent sometime near a huge tank which was completely dry and finally bade a good bye to our friends and proceeded towards Bangalore. 
Venkatappana Baavi, Kanakagiri
Venkatappana Baavi, Kanakagiri
Dry Tank 
Sri Kanakachalapathi Temple 
Kanakagiri Fort Walls 
 The previous posts related to Kanakagiri's Ashokan edicts can be read here and here

Featured post

Madhya Pradesh, The heart of Incredible India