32 ANGELS, A CITY OF HOPE, AN UNWED MOTHER AND THE TEMPLE OF THANKSGIVING

India is indeed a mysterious country with folklore, myths and history so intricately intertwined , it’s hard  to extract one from the other.

Bhojpur is  the tiniest of villages located 30 kms from Bhopal,  the Capital of Madhya Pradesh . A landlocked state located in the heart of India, it is home to many secrets from the past.

Bhojpur was founded by Raja Bhoj in the early 11th century.

Sinhasana Battisi, a famous composition and literary masterpiece  of 32 yoginis ( angels) was composed in this area  itself.

Ashapuri or the  city of hope is about 6 kms from Bhojpur and is home to a vast array of temples, Hindu, Jain and Buddhist.

The region is unexplored and can be a delight for any curious traveler, mythologist or historian.

An enormous incomplete temple looms over its landscape.Each stone used to build this colossal structure weighs about 70 tonnes each.

Temple on a hill
                                 Temple on a hill

While I have given you a glimpse of this gorgeous marvel of architecture built about 1500 years in another article. Today I shall play the role of an archaeologist to unravel  the mysteries of Bhojpur.

This site is  off the tourist map and a site visited by but a few. As you can see the temple is INCOMPLETE. The spire or the typical pyramid on top is missing? It was never built, and has remained so for 1500 years.

The mammoth scale  represents the pinnacle of Temple Architecture of 11th century India.

Famous Historical Temple
  Famous Historical Inheritance, Bhojpur Shiv      Temple ( a translation of the writing on the green board) 

The Bholeshwar temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Bhojpur was once the capital of the vast empire of Raja Bhoj who ruled this kingdom in the 11th Century AD.

It lies on the banks of the river Betwa which goes all the way to Orchha, another must see historical and quaint  town in Madhya Pradesh.

a closer look as the sunrays lights up the temple
a closer look as the sunrays lights up the temple

The construction of the temple was started by the illustrious KING BHOJ ( the airport at Bhopal is named after him) , who ruled the area known as Malwa.

His dynasty, the Paramaras ruled Malwa  for close to 3 centuries.

It is said that he was stricken by an incurable  disease. A sage advised him  to construct a lake fed by 365 springs ( one for each day of the year) . It is said Raja Bhoj was an accomplished engineer and astrologer as well.

Bhojpur was the site of this lake , nestled between hills and made by creating a unique  dam across the river Betwa.  A dip in this man made lake  cured the King of his ailments.

at the base
                                      at the base

The lake however  has dried up ( or was drained out)  over time leaving only the Incomplete temple as a witness.The temple was the Thanksgiving of Raja Bhoj.

The grateful King  wished to complete a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva in gratitude for being cured of his ailments.

Was it an earthquake which destroyed the temple? A visit to neighboring Ashapuri  points to this possibility.

a small temple outside
a small temple outside the sanctum sanctorum

The thanksgiving continues to date as the gong rings calling the faithful to prayer.

It is a unique site, where you can see the plans of a mammoth proposed temple complex etched in stone. Drawings and etchings made  11 centuries ago can still  be seen to the north west of the temple.

the gong
the gong

The sound of the conch shell takes you through  a time warp  when gigantic stones weighing 70 tonnes were taken along a ramp and placed according to a meticulous plan. The ramp exists to date.

Did invading armies prevent the completion of the temple?

the beautiful sound of the conch
the beautiful sound of the conch

It is fabled the temples were constructed with assistance from the Chola Kings of the south. The Chola kings worshipped Lord Shiva a swell.

What prevented the completion of the temple, were no funds sanctioned by the rulers after 1085 A.D.?

the people collect
the people collect

The Largest Shivling in the world rises 22 feet ( 7m) from base to the top.

first glimpse of  the 21 m Bholeshwar Shivling through  smoke from incense sticks
first glimpse of the 7 m high  Bholeshwar Shivling through smoke from incense sticks

Bholeshwar temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, built by Raja Bhoj ( 1010-1058 AD) was his thanksgiving for being cured from his ailments.

It symbolized the ingenuity of and the prosperity  of his kingdom as it overlooked a 450 sq km  man made BHOJPUR TAAL.( lake) .

Over time it has also acquired the name SOMNATH OF THE NORTH.

boleshwar shivling
boleshwar shivling

The Shivling itself is made from a single stone and is about 2 mtr in height.

inside the temple
inside the temple

It was damaged as the central dome collapsed breaking the Shivling into two. The polish on the sandstone is dazzling to date .

Fables of this mighty ruler reached every corner of the Land bringing the best crafstman under his command.

A treatise on ArchitecureSamarangana Sutradhara   was authored by Raja Bhoj alongwith 84 other books on a vast spectrum of subjects including Medicine & Chemistry.

The blueprints of the temple can be seen  even today , etched in stone, yet the temple was left incomplete ? Did the architects mess it up?

A 1500 year old Shivling carved from a single stone.
A 1500 year old Shivling carved from a single stone.

There is a story from the Mahabartaha ( 1500- 2000Bc)  that Karna ( son of the Sun)  was left in this very river by his unwed mother Kunti.

The incomplete temple brings to life folklore, fables and legends.

the village and river viewed from the temple
the village and river betwa  viewed from the temple

Lets travel to discover more of this amazing land.

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VISITOR FROM KABUL AND THE POETRY OF WONDER

Its has been a month since I started writing these posts . Am close to posting  half a century  of blogs and loving every minute of it as I rediscover all the destinations.

The posts are on travels within India and somehow the Taj Mahal  was still missing in my Library of Posts. I had promised to take you on a discovery of India through the lens of nature.I attempt to do so with The Taj Mahal as  well.

My dear friend Kushwant ( on the right)  and the Visitor from Kabul  ( on the left) help in making amends and plugging this vast hole.

the visitor from kabul
The visitor from kabul

People of the world I give you  the Poetry in Marble: THE WONDER OF THE WORLD  THE TAJ MAHAL.

As the Emperor saw it from Agra Fort
As the ageing Emperor Shah Jahan  saw it from Agra Fort

The Taj Mahal is located in city of Agra on the banks of the river Yamuna , about 180 kms from New Delhi. If you leave early morning you can be back in Delhi the same evening.

The ageing Emperor was imprisoned by his youngest  son Aurangzeb in Agra Fort. I imagine his view was just as foggy  on a cold winter morning 500 years ago.

parakeet and the gateway
Parakeet and the gateway

Nature casts its spell in synchronization with the Beauty in marble.Notice the Kite?

the entry
the entry

It is interesting to observe the  harmony of symmetry.spot the birds?

do notice the birds at the tip of minarets
do notice the birds at the tip of minarets

The top of the dome of the Taj peeps over the walls.

we can glimpse the main dome
we can glimpse the main dome

Hold your breath as you get the first glimpse of this Wonder of the World.

through the gateway and lo and behold
through the gateway and lo and behold

The Taj Mahal is the perfect poem in marble by an Emperor who mourns the loss of his beloved Queen.

poetry
What a wonder 

Is it a pigeon undertaking an aerial survey?

the pigeon and the taj
the pigeon and the Taj Mahal

Which each photograph that follows, we draw closer to this Marvelous monument of Love.

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a glimpse through the branches

The detailing  is achieved by a complex inlay of precious stones .

detailed inlay work and poems in arabic
detailed inlay work and poems in arabic script

A garden of precious stones is unvieled.

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inlay work

Each panel of flowers is unique and finds no replica in the Taj. I find it interesting to correlate each flower to one in the sprawling gardens of the Taj Mahal.

flowers in marble
flowers in marble
flowers in the sprawling gardens
flowers in the sprawling gardens

BEDAZZLED WITH FAITH , IMMORTALITY AND ATONEMENT AT THE SINHASTHA KUMBH

It is fabled a drop of Amrit (nectar)  which grants immortality  fell from the kumbh ( urn ) at the RAM KUND, Nashik.

The Urn was carried by  Garuda ( the king of serpent eagles and vehicle of Lord Vishnu) .

This hoarding at Nashik tells the story of the Kumbh
This hoarding at Nashik tells the story of the Kumbh

I am writing with the hope that the article is read by a vast number of people and my travelogue motivates them to go to  the Sinhastha Kumbh. The Kumbh is happening as I write  and  the fair will continue till the end of September 2015.

faith : at the feet of God
faith : at the feet of God

I was not even aware, let alone go to one,  of the significance of the Kumbh Melas till about 3 years ago.Thereafter it has been a never ending educational  journey . The Kumbh is a must visit for people from all walks of life. ( believers or non believers, Hindus and non Hindus)  It is a chance of a lifetime to witness and learn about this massive upsurge of humanity. 

It is a literary congregation/festival  of  scholars , sadhus and priests besides millions of people.

It reads
It reads ” the festival for Humanity is now taking place, welcome to the KUMBH fair  at Nashik”

It is a religious fair held once in 12 years when the Sun and Jupiter enter the constellation of   “Leo”, the Lion. ( Singha is Lion in Hindi) .

A unique fact about the Nashik Kumbh is that it is held simultaneously at two locations, Ram Kund at Nashik and Trymbakeshwar ( 30 kms from Nashik) .

Ram Kund at night
Ram Kund at night

Thus we will go to both , we go first to the Ram Kund which is in the heart of the charming city of Nashik.

ram kund at 0700 hrs
Ram Kund at 0700 hrs

Panchvati, Nashik ( location of the Ram Kund)   is a historic site as it is supposed to be the place where Lakshman cuts the nose of Supranakha, hence the the name NASHIK.

( please read the epic Ramayan)

Lord Ram with his bros including Lakshman
Lord Ram with his brothers including Lakshman

The antique  panel above is located at the base of the Ram Stambh( pillar) located at Panchvati near the Ram Kund. You have to look for it. I was lucky to spot it as a priest was there offering flowers.

Ram Sthamb connects me to Tirupati
Ram Stambh connects me to Tirupati

The U shaped mark is the symbol of Lord Vishnu and can be seen at Tirupathi in particular. The flight of stairs descends to the ghats and Ram Kund where you take the traditional dip to wash away  your sins.

The Stambh or Pillar also marks the centre of Panchvati where Lord Ram lived for two and half years with Sita and Lakshman.

It is interesting that a temple dedicated to Lord Venkateshwar is located a few minutes away from this site.

Small temples are located under trees along the river banks and even in the midst of  the river. Mythology, nature and religion form a beautiful amalgamation.

The city seen from the ram kund
The city seen from the Ram Kund

Millions have come and gone bound in the faith that a dip in these waters will atone all sins of the past. I too took a dip with thousands of others and symbolically  offered the water to the Sun God.

The Goddess Godavri flows from Gaumukhs.
The Goddess Godavri flows from Gaumukhs.

The closest natural event to the Kumbh is the migration in far away Africa.The lady has traveled  1500 kms with her ailing husband to carry the holy waters in her urn ( kumbh)  made of brass.

the urn is revered and cannot be placed on the floor
the urn is revered and cannot be placed on the ground

Do see the kumbh ( urn) in the foreground

the banks of the river Godavri at panchvati
the banks of the river Godavri at panchvati

Trees temples and people all merge. Man and woman exist in all  symbolized by Ardhanareshwar. Only the  two combined can complete the picture .

Lord Shiva as Ardhnareshwar
Lord Shiva as Ardhnareshwar

Trees are revered and you will observe people pray to them too.Even God’s creations are worshiped.

a tree and a sadhu
a tree and a sadhu

There are numerous bridges across the river.The temple is  unique  as the the first rays of the sun touch  the feet of the ruling deity, the Creator  Lord Vishnu on the  21st of  March .

sundarnarayan temple forms the backdrop
Sundarnarayan temple forms the backdrop

The sun has set,  and I sign off with two captivating images of the Kumbh Mela.

Rameshwaram twemple
Rameshwaram temple

Nandiji on the banks of the RAM KUND

om namah shivam
Om Namah Shivaya

We now head to the second half of the Kumbh at Trymbakeshwar.

Queen of Hearts

History of Bhopal
History of Bhopal
view fom the hotel
View from the hotel
view of pool and bhopal
View of pool . hills and Bhopal
balconies and beyond
balconies and beyond
Noor-us- Sabah  Palace Hotel at Bhopal
Noor-us- Sabah Palace Hotel at Bhopal
Bul Bul
Bul Bul
scarlet flowers
scarlet flowers
pea hens
pea hens
predator
predator
hidden.
hidden.
pond heron
pond heron, the prey
prey and predator
prey and predator
wagtail
wagtail
coat of arms of Begum  under the Queen
Coat of arms of Begum  Jahan under the Queen
Begums Flagstaff
Flagstaff of Begum Jahan
chandelier and carriage
chandelier and carriage
In flight as Bhopal merges with the Union of India
In flight as Bhopal merges with the Union of India
sunset
sunset

A 3500 year old city ,the Ganges and Dolphins

Kashi, Benaras and Varanasi can hardly be captured in a 500 worded blog.

Nor can the faith and belief of millions be logically explained.It took me 5 trips and 20 years before i could even feel ( let alone see)  this mystical city.

The faith remains but the dolphins are rare to see.

At the outset I simply leave with you images.

The first glimpse of the Ganges at Assi Ghat
The first glimpse of the Ganges at Assi Ghat
Reflections of Varanasi in the Ganges at night
Reflections of Varanasi in the Ganges at night
A majestic haveli from its 3500 year old past
A majestic haveli from its 3500 year old past
Jakaso on the Ganges, our hotel
Jakaso on the Ganges, our hotel
Boats and boatman
Owl view: Boats and boatman.
Sunrise , the Ganges and the boats
Sunrise , the Ganges and the boats
The early bird...
The early bird…
In the lap of the ganges at Benararas, sadhus leave behind all their burderns
In the lap of the Ganges at Benaras, sadhus leave behind all their burdens
Peep out of the window
Peep out of the window
Orange Mouse: vehicle of Lord Ganesha at Ganesha Ghats
Orange Mouse: vehicle of Lord Ganesha at Ganesha Ghats
Ancient ramparts are still  home to many
Ancient ramparts are still home to many
 Elephants paisleys and peacocks etched in stone overlook the Ganges.

Elephants paisleys and peacocks etched in stone overlook the Ganges.
a 400 yr old mosque overooks the ganges
a 400 yr old mosque overooks the ganges
Bird soars above all
Bird soars above all
A bird and temple spires
A bird and  1000 year  old temple spires
the temple spires seen from the courtyard of a home
the temple spires seen from the courtyard of a home
HOLI HAI
HOLI HAI
“Holika” was burnt the night before
Foggy
Foggy
to each their own way
to each their own way
Transporting mankind to the next world: The Holy Ganges
Transporting mankind to the next world: The Holy Ganges

The past, present and future all flow in the midst of this Holy River

Death at Kashi ( now Varanasi) on the shores of the Ganges ensures a passage to the Heavens.

Contact me at : chandmukul@gmail.com for more.

A Cocktail of History Literature and Fun: Jaipur Literature Festival

Am sharing with you  and writing about one of the most “delightful  annual events” .

It has for several years become an intrinsic part of my itinerary: 5 days in January every year are “reserved exclusively”  for the Jaipur Literature Festival.

I prefer to travel by car as it permits me to discover,explore and  eat at the dhabhas (wayside restaurants) . .Flexibility of time and no restrictions on packing are  additional benefits that accrue.

With flyovers being completed the ride is smooth
With flyovers being completed the ride is smooth

The weather is superb in January , making it one of the times to visit historical and colourful Jaipur (5 hours &  250 kms from Delhi) . Hold onto your seats, we are going to have  a blast.

Braethe the air countryside, mustard flowers in bloom
Breathe in the countryside; mustard flowers in bloom

Had I gone by train or by air, would have missed the stop at the gas station and thus the lovely monument in the background. While i filled in gas in the car, my friends ducked in for a coffee break.

Do spot the bird perched right on top.
Do spot the bird perched right on top.

For places to stay in Jaipur, you can be spoilt for choice.From large hotel chains to Palaces and Havelis you have it all.

I choose a small peaceful get away from the frenzy of the city. A quaint little home run by an adorable carefree lady.

room under the neem tree
room under the neem tree
In calm surroundings
In calm surroundings

If you love horses you are in for a surprise treat .As you sip your bed tea.  they can be seen frolicking across the rear wall of the house. Watching them roll in the sand was delightful.

the wall 7 o,clock is the wall of the home I stay in
the wall 7 o,clock is the rear wall of the home stay

Clock  towers are an ” intrinsic heritage” of most towns/cities of India. If you locate them you can be sure you are close to the heart of the town as well.

I spotted the majestic  clock tower at Jaipur  while driving to the Diggi Palace , venue of the happening Jaipur Literature Festival ( JLF)

TIP look for the clock tower in Indian towns
TIP look out for the clock tower in Indian towns

The historical Diggi Palace is located at the end of a narrow lane and runs as a family managed hotel round the year.

Main entry gate of Diggi palace
Main entry gate of Diggi palace
Lord Ganesha denotes a good start
Lord Ganesha denotes a good start

The graceful owners of the venue welcome you in their colourful and  beautiful best.

looking for birds i notice a wonderful canopy of embroidered umbrella
looking for birds i notice a wonderful canopy of embroidered umbrella

Do not miss the scrumptious “masala  peanuts” ( seen in a basket;  bottom left of the picture) which is paired perfectly with masala tea served in earthen cups.

These are some of the flavours which make the JLF a unique and delightful event.

The colour and beauty of Rajasthan is overpowering
The colour and beauty of Rajasthan is overpowering
Mark the turbans and traditional attire
Mark the turbans and traditional attire

The Literary Festival is a wonderful place to witness Books come to Life as the authors talk about their experiences, debate various issues and answer your queries. Its a wonderful place to interact with hundreds of authors from across the world who are so easily accessible.

Book launch at the JLF
Book launch at the JLF

There are multiple venues and many events unfold simultaneously, thus it is best to make a plan before you arrive at the venue.

Whats his plan??
Whats his plan??
 Char bagh
Char bagh

A talk at the  Durbar Hall was my inspiration  for travelling to the Mahakumbh ( held only once in 12 years) . What will inspire you?

Do visit when a literary session is not in progress
DURBAR HALL :Do visit when a literary session is not in progress

The story of the Vijayanagar empire and the ruins of Hampi remains my personal favorite.

The story of HAMPI being told through slides
The story of HAMPI being told through slides
Jumping with Joy at BAITHAK
Jumping with Joy at BAITHAK

Shopping, Drinking, Eating & Music are naturally woven into the festival. The festival starts and ends with Music.

The morning session
The morning session

My friend Babar takes the  FUN  route, flirting and shopping ( in order of priority)

Any guesses what's he upto?
Any guesses what’s he upto?
Grapes,wine and ...
Grapes,wine and …
fringe benefits
fringe benefits

Do plan your trips now. To have an amazing fun filled Coccktail, TRAVEL WITH ME.

contact me at : chandmukul@gmail.com or leave a message on Facebook.

CHEERS