Madhya Pradesh

Madhya Pradesh, literally meaning the central region is often known as the heart of India. Endowed with rich and diverse forests, Madhya Pradesh is a reservoir of Biodiversity, the home to National parks and Natural Reserves and a watershed of a number of rivers including the Narmada and the Tapti. Madhya Pradeshs Natural Heritage welcomes visitors to nine national parks including Bandhavgarh National Park, Kanha National Park, Waterfalls at Jabalpur, beautiful forest Eco systems and Natural Reserves such as Amarkantak, Bagh Caves and Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve.
The cultural heritage of many religions is well represented in this predominantly Hindi speaking state. Innumerable monuments, exquisitely carved temples, stupas, forts and palaces on hilltops bring to mind visions of empires and kingdoms, of the great warriors and builders, poets and musicians, saints and philosophers; of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Islam. Some are the Lakshmana Temple, Devi Jagdambi Temple, The Sanchi Stupa and Masoleum on the banks of the Betwa River. The Khajuraho Group of monuments along with Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi and Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka are among declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Madhya Pradesh has an extensive railway network and a good road network connecting almost all parts of the state. The state has two international airports, one in Indore and another in the state capital Bhopal and three domestic airports at Gwalior, Khajuraho and Jabalpur. The climate is characterized by hot and dry summers, a varied rainy season over different parts of the state and pleasant winters.

Wild and Historical Bundelkhand – Raneh Fall & Khajuraho

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The Khajuraho Group of Temples are reportedly constructed during 10th& 11th century by the Chandelas and dedicated to the Hindus & Jains. Most of the temples are constructed by hard sedimentary rocks and erected in an advanced geometrical technology avoiding cementing mortars. A few are constructed by granites too. This was perhaps to enhance the longevity and religious faiths. The architecture is “Nagara-Style” and rock cut sculptures are similar to wooden carvings during the earlier ages. The intricately expressive figures and designs are profusely available in all the structures. It is believed that there was originally 85 temples constructed around 25 km out of which only 25 survived within 6 km now. They are divided in three zones viz. Western Group, Eastern Group & Southern Group. A brief of these exquisite temples are compiled herewith for reader’s delight.

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Wild and Historical Bundelkhand – Ajaigarh Fort, The forbidden Kingdom

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The landscape around the lake is astounding but heartening simultaneously. Hundreds of very well sculpted rocks, some of which still in better shapes were lying scattered at the lake side and around. A huge round sculpted “Amalaka” (the stone disk/rim fitted atop a temple) is an eye catcher, depicting pathetic demise of its glorious past. The invaluable chiselled rocks and the sculpted remains of a temple were once an integral part of an exotic masterpiece, perhaps as good as the marvels in Khajuraho. Can it be restored now! Sadly, no or not to its original shape.
Descending through the broken stepsand balancing cautiously we reached at an open balcony. An alley of beautiful rock carvings and finely chiselled rock figures of different deities and symbolic, made the sweating effort worth.

Our next hunt was the hidden gems in the jungle at Ajaigarh. Our prime reason to visit the fort was to see those exclusive Khajuraho style Jain Temples in the forest. After some rest&normalising the respiration, we again started our stroll & soon reached a fenced arena. Our guide gestured to say, here is the Jain Temples. Where! In the woods we could havea glimpse of the structures only on reaching close enough.

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Wild and Historical Bundelkhand – Panna Tiger Reserve & Khajuraho at Night

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Waiting was a waste so we reached at the other site where a tigress with her cubs was reportedly roaming on the other bank of Ken. The river snakes inside the entire forest adding mystical beauty on one side and the Vindhya Range of hills on the other side, enhancing the charm naturally. A team of National Geographic was camping with sophisticated equipment of photography. Waiting patiently in silence & clicking at times mysteriously, I understand they were filming the tigress and the cubs. I tried to aim my 50x imitating their style on the same direction but could find nothing but rocks and bushes till infinity. In 10 mins I was restless and gave-up. Those guys were still on job and may remain there for months, as informed. Not our cup of tea. We may enjoy watching, if anything they will produce in their channel some day at the leisure of our cosy living rooms or bedrooms.
Down thereafter, we stopped at the banks of Ken River where one can enjoy boating in the wild with occasional sighting of Gharials. Boating in the serene landscape was experimental but the weather didn’t support & soon it was dark & started raining heavily.

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Hindustan Ka Dil Dekho (M.P. Trip) – Part 1

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After having good time watching all above, we moved to the left side of the premises, to see if there was anything left. And there found a small handicraft shop, a tiny farm where white pigeons, rabbits and ducks are being kept and an astonishing view point, from where we could see whole of Sanchi’s wheat fields. It was completely mesmerizing.

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Ancient temples of Jabalpur

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Observing the steps and the facilities there, an interesting question cropped up in my mind. “Have we become weaker and more complacent that our counterpart who lived and constructed such temples?” Or, in other side of it, “Are we more caring than our counterpart who lived and constructed such temples?”

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A Magic in Marbles : Bheda Ghat in Jabalpur

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After the boat turned right, the guide indicated towards some rocks of white marble that were having small pores/holes on their outer surface. He narrated the story of the shooting of the scene of gun-battle between two Bollywood heroes of yesteryears. The heroes were shooting at each other from opposite sides of the rivers and the bullets had dented the marble. Everybody was convinced by the story and hummed as a token of their acceptance of that theory.

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A rendezvous with Narmada: Dhuandhar Fall at Jabalpur

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Sometimes, when you are too passionate about something, one gets a shock when the reality strikes suddenly. Deeply enamoured in love with the river, when I was approaching it, the reality of people struck me with deep sense of sorrow. I saw the poor children standing in the waves and searching for the coins which devotees throw in the water. I stood there for a while and wanted to ask those children about their reasons to do the same and to convince them about the risks that are generally associated with such activities in the middle of a raving water flow. However, after pondering over the situation, I desisted from entering into any kind of dialogue with those children, numbering around fifty. It was the example of extreme penury striking me with a reality check and shaking my conscience. All recent events of displacement of tribals during Bargi Dam and Sardar Sarovar Project revolved around my memory and I stood there dumbstruck. The modern day reality was mean and much beyond the well-meaning words of “Dakshin Ganga” and “mekal-kanya” etc.

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A Brave Queen: Rani Durgawati (Jabalpur, M.P.)

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As it happens, when God takes away something, it gives something to bank upon. The queen also had some of the most trustworthy lieutenants to manage the affairs of the kingdom. I also found an old temple of Mata Sharda near the fort. In fact, it was situated just at the base of the hill. Somehow, I thought that Goddess Sharda gave immense strength to our queen to take up the responsibility while re-building her own life with the growth of her son, who was known as “Veer Narayan”. Due to safety reasons, the queen had also shifted her base to Chauragarh.

Five more years passed under the rule of queen bringing a sense of normalcy in the kingdom. Then, the destiny struck again in 1556 AD, the independent sultan of Malwa (Present day Mandu) crossed the distance of 650 kilometres and attacked the Queen thinking that he would not be met with any resistance. But, he was proved wrong. Even though, our queen was fighting her first battle, she came out victorious. Baz Bahadur had to run away for his life.

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An example of determination: Pisanhari ki Marhiya (Jabalpur)

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The competition gradually became tougher and louder till there was a total din. Amidst the chaos, looking at the prospects of not being able to find a clear-cut winner, the challenge-competition was halted in the middle. In that interlude it was the perfect time for telling the story of an old woman, who lived alone in a hut at Jabalpur about 650 years ago.

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A temple in Nation’s defence: Pat Baba (Jabalpur)

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Next morning, when his men would have assembled to start the construction again, Colonel Smith shared his dream with them. In their collective despair arising from unsuccessful attempts at building the factory, they would have decided take a chance with the dream and started to dig out the ground to retrieve the idol. I have no idea how they would have searched and found the exact place for digging. Either they would have tried at different places all over the premises or would have taken the help of some wise men who could sense the presence of any heavy object beneath the ground.

Next few days, the construction of the factory was stopped. Instead there were hectic activities in search of the idol. Finally, after a massive search and digging below the ground, the idol of Lord Hanuman was found. It must be a joyous moment not only for all the workers but also for the officers, especially Colonel Smith. He must have run to the site from his tent to see the last stages of the recovery of the idol. He must not have believed his eyes on what he would have seen. The dream that he saw was becoming a reality. Standing in front of the trench, he would have gone through the plethora of emotions ranging from disbelief to happiness and further to extreme sense of faith.

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Agahiya: A new Sufi Order at Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh

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In despair, when I came out of the inner sanctum sanctorum, my eyes fell on the outer wall of the main dargah. There were two marble plates fixed on the walls on which the life story of the Shaikh was inscribed. Hazrat was born in Lucknow, in a family that had migrated to India from Iran. His grandfather and father were given the positions of responsibilities in the government of those times and they soon had become part of the elite class of Lucknow. Hazrat was born with a fire of longing in his heart to know almighty and was always searching for knowledge by going to one teacher to another. During such exercise, he came to know about a Sufi Shaikh Shah Maqsus Alam residing in the town of Banda. In the tender age of 13 years, he left the comforts of his home surreptitiously and went to Banda and became the disciple of Shaikh Shah Maqsus Alam. There he acquired spiritual and worldly education. After the demise of the shaikh, he went to Bareilly to become the disciple of Hazrat Tajul-Aulia Shah Nizamuddin Hussain (R.A.). Though later he got married and had children, but his life was totally dedicated to the Sufi ways and traditions. During the first war of Independence, Hazrat Meerja Agah came to Jabalpur. There he established his Sufi tradition called “Agahiya Order” and in 1918 AD, he went for his heavenly abode.\

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An evening with River Narmada: Gwari Ghat, Jabalpur

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But deep down in my heart, I knew that I had chosen for that boat ride not because of my friend, but because of the Narmada. And, the Narmada never fails. It was she, who was nursing me while I sat heads down at the Gwari Ghat. It was she, who persuaded me to cross her so as to uplift me from a very deep guilt. If that being so, it was not possible that she would be letting me stand on the other side of the Ghat for the night. While, I was brooding over all that, suddenly we saw a boat crossing past us. We shouted for help, but he did not stop and went past sailing over the water. My friend lost his control and started cursing the boatman, both who had left us stranded and also who had sailed past us.
Half an hour or so more again passed with no means to go to the other side. The fear of being stranded on the dark ghats in the night was started as a test against the patience and the faith towards Narmada. Just in time, when the faith and the impatience started to rumble in the mind, we saw a boatman sailing towards us from the other bank. Gradually, the blurred image of the boatman became crystal clear. He was “our boatman”, with his boat.

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