Destinations with obscurity ,where roads ultimately wind up at corners where no one has ever revered always ignites a sense of being the “man on the moon“. Well i will not be amused to land up on moon but would always love to be on an excursion unraveling the hidden treasures of the natural habitat.
So far i had traversed to places having familiarity with the social mass but this time i thought of cherishing and exploring the obscurity of the Chambal Gorge, created by the mighty and the pristine Chambal River ,who oblivious of my encroachment is busy streaming and gushing.
December was the month back then two years ago ,when i thought of going down to the South Eastern frontier of Rajasthan surrounding Kota and Jhalawar, from Delhi. The region is situated on a tableland being a part of the Malwa Plateau which encapsulates the whole Northern Madhya Pradesh along with the Vindhyan Ranges and enscrapments.
The plateau is formed by erosion of sediments and by the deposition of magma(lava) which happened because of volcanic eruptions some hundred million years ago according to some geological timelines ….. Perhaps it would not be inappropriate to say that the rivers flowing may have cut these gorges and dissected the plateau in such a manner.Because of this reason the soil in this region is categorically black and brown in color with highest moisture retention capacity thus giving enough scope for irrigation and cultivation.
I gave a phone call to Sandeep, my friend who is living in Kota saying i will be coming the next day. Kota is located on the south east border of Rajasthan on the banks of river Chambal. This region of Rajasthan is known as the “Hadoti” belt mainly because the Hada Rajputs inhabitated and ruled this region.The Hada’s are a sub clan of the Chaouhan Rajput dynasty.
Kota is the third largest city of Rajasthan marked by tremendous industrial presence mainly attributed to the mineral resources and generation of electricity and power. Reaching Kota i went to his room ,hurriedly chalking out an itinerary for my travel. He suggested few names ……… but only two places ignited an eager anguish in me which is enumerated below .
The first place is known as Gaipernath which is situated 23 km from Kota on the road towards Rawatbhatta. From Gaipernath it takes another 28 km to reach Rawatbhatta ,which gains importance for its Nuclear Power Staion. Ultimately decided to do a single backpack travel as sandeep was citing some very important work that day. I took a bus going towards Rawatbhatta and got down at a village known as “Ratkankra”. The bus stand was near a state run “Rajkiya Vidyalaya” school ,upon inquiry it was known that the Gaipernath temple and the mighty Chambal Valley is just a kilometer away.
I started walking towards the escarpments which is not at all visible from the village as the topography is characterized with a plateau formation wherein the land seems to be flat and widespread in its whole length and breath.It is only the places which are cut open by the rivers where gorges are formed, one knows that he is on an elevation ranging to some 800-1000 odd feet.
Gaipernath(a name of Lord Shiva in local parlance) is such a place situated into a deep gorge and can be reached through foot steps laid down below.
While getting down in the gorge the temple shrines of Lord Shiva is seen near a natural pond caused by a waterfall which runs down from the cliff only in the monsoon period cascading in three steps.
This temple is built somewhere around 15th century according to the inscriptions and account from a local priest.
River Chambal is seen hidden underneath seemingly playing hide and seek. The gorge gives spectacular views of Gaipernath temple shrines,distant natural vegetation carpeting green cover over the ravine.
The erect wall like enscrapments exhibiting perfect symmetry are naturally carved from molten lava, beaming with sunlight running parallel and juxtaposed to each other.The temple shrine once came into the news in the year 2008 when the staircase leading down towards the Shiv Temple caved in leaving two casualties and nearly hundred people stranded until the armed forces came for their rescue.
After getting down in the gorge near the shiv temple , i sat on a big rock near the pond ,staring at the clean green water …. kept on musing over the air filled with mythical and natural fragrance.
As a part of my habit i usually collect small rocks from the places wherever i visit. I did the same by picking up small rocks and few sand gravel and put them in my backpack.Interacted with a local priest, who upon inquiry revealed that this place is used by Lord Shiva and his family for dwelling purpose. Also this place is visited my many pilgrims who patronize Lord Shiva at the time of Maha Shivratri.
After an hour long penance cherishing antiquity and spirituality i decided to move above walking through the stairs… Again moved towards Ratkankra from where i got down intitally about a kilometer away.There was a chai(tea) shop near the bus stop where i decided to wait for the bus going towards Kota. I started to speak in Marwari with the locals inside that tea shop or a dhaba !!!! whatever ……. They were very amused when they knew i was on a single backpacking trip. One of them a person barely a middle aged man proclaimed that he has moved deep into the ravines and could take anyone from there to Kota saying “hum aapko jungle ke raaste Kota Barrage aur city tak le ja sakte hain”
Tik Tak tik listening to my wrist watch , wind blowing in my ears,hearing cattle herds, people mostly lanky carrying potlis over their heads ………such a great country landscape and the social fabric woven in such simpler fashion.It was noon as i kept waiting but no bus was sighted on that remote destination.Finally i got into a jeep with two Sardarji’s who were going towards Kota. They were very happy to help and looked very amicable in extending a helping land ,as opposed to what we see in metro-politan cities.They were talking about some Land dispute in their family and asking for my opinion…. he he he he I was enjoying the whole journey towards Kota.
After many discussions of their family fued and court cases the younger sardar acknowledged that he is carrying a tourist with him. He asked “what places have you visited in Kota” I replied I have decided not to visit the city considering it worthless but to explore the outskirts at large. He asked me “aap Garadia Mahadev gaye kya ??? bahut hi ramniya jagah hai” ….. exact same words he said as I recorded in my travel diary. He defined me the landscape and the way to move towards Garadia Mahadev which will be next in the offing.
They dropped me at Ghoda Chowk in Kota ….. from there I went towards the Bus Stand in Nayapura to enquire about transport towards Garadia Mahadev. To my surprise no one knew about Garadia Mahadev but even after receiving such a tepid response I was undeterred.
A cab driver agreed to go to Garadia Mahdev for Rs.600 to and fro. He said it is a very remote place and people usually don’t prefer going alone there.
Garadia Mahadev is located near the NH-76 leading to Dabi and Chittorgarh.NH-76 acts as a link between Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh to Pindwara in Sirohi District of Rajasthan. The National Highway is a four lane road perfectly cemented with concrete and is almost isolated.It was 25 kms south west of Kota on the NH-76,there comes a left hand diversion towards Garadia Mahadev and Jawahar Sagar Dam.From that diversion Garadia Mahadev is almost 3 km and Jawahar Sagar Dam is some 12 km in distance.
It is a very isolated place without any habitation…. one cannot even sight an electric pole on the way.It was 3.30 pm already and I was on my way overlooking the barren lands covered with little stones mostly obsidian in nature mainly created due to solidification of molten lava.The road(kuccha rasta) was so rugged that the car was losing traction at some points.The land was covered with thorny shrubs and bushes testifying its arid topography. I was exasperated and little bit scared mainly due to an account that my friend sandeep shared with me over the phone about a young man being mobbed here in the woods by the locals.
Finally I arrive at Garadia Mahadev.One can see a great canyon stretching to long distance like a maze of saw toothed ridges dissecting the whole plateau… I can recount this experience as breathtaking and one which I can never forget to cherish for my whole lifetime.
I reached near the gorge at an altitude of some 500-800 feet msl.It looks like a magnificent canyon between two huge cliff almost symmetrical in nature with river Chambal flowing in the gorge.The river is serene,motionless as seen from above and it seems as if molten glass is laid down in the mould below beaming with ultimate glaze. The width between the two cliffs is enormous with winds blowing like harmonic hyms reaching a crescendo of solitude. There was a temple shrine of Lord Shiva nearby on the surface of the cliff which can be reached by moving downwards with the help of some 15-20 steps.
There is a priest inside the temple who lives in the nearby village near that diversion on the NH-76. He is available for religious ceremonies and rituals only till 5.30 pm as staying there is not at all safe at night.
I paid my homage to Lord Shiva in reverence and moved near the cliff on a rock looking down with glaring eyes ,mesmerizing the serenity of Chambal.One can attain instant solitude with winds whispering in your ears …… driving your attention towards the panoramic landscape which evidently looks like a natural canvas with colours flirting with the serene ambiance.
The cliffs showing great perseverance ,standing erect and stellar as stalwarts for centuries acting as a witness to so much long gone in the pages of history.I was looking down in the water for some gharials or crocodile sightings, for which chambal is famous.., but could find none.
Chambal ,the largest tributary of Yamuna river originates in Mhow(Indore District) of Madhya Pradesh at an altitude of some 800 meters msl. From there onwards it travels nearly 900 km northwards for a confluence with itsalma mater – River Yamuna in Etawah district of Uttar Pradesh. The Chambal Ki ghati or the ‘beehads’ start from here covering areas like Karauli,Dholpur,Gwalior,Bhind,Morena,Datia etc infested by dacoits and bandits.
I was remembering and humming the song “What a Wonderful World” once crooned by legendary Louis Armstrong in the 1960’s although my music player was playing Pearl Jam‘s hit single “I’m Alive” ……..My music player was stuck in the Alternative/Grunge Rock playlist…. and I was trying to find some soothing song matching to the spirit of the ambiance and finally got Eagles “Hotel California” as a respite.
It was already 5.00 pm and thought of moving from there before getting dark. Finally reached Kota at my friends place in Talwandi… shared by experiences with him.
The story doesn’t end here ….. The Hadoti belt of Rajasthan has one more destination in the offing which will be coming up in the subsequent posts.
1.)My Travel Diary
2.)Locals of Kota
4.)Sandeep for his help