Thursday, December 5, 2019

Temple Travel Run

This, is the Saas Bahu Temple of Udaipur, built at the site of an epic battle between Mothers and Wives of the Men of Medieval India. The Men Lost.. Seriously!! 

Of course I`m kidding, it`s real name is Sahasra Bahu Temple, a cluster of ruins on the outskirts of Udaipur. These vaishnava temples, especially with that Greekesque pillored facade, tucked away in a part hilly part watery greenscape, seemed like an intelligent choice, cause the lakes of Udaipur and their islanded castles within, are an overdone thing, besides they would draw You deeper into the trafficy mess of urban Udaipur.

So why Udaipur anyway? Cause my road trip from Delhi is destined towards Gujarat, and there is only so much I can drive in a single shot, with a teenage kid in the rear seat, of a new car. (Teenagers are short on patience, New cars pending second servicing, beg forgiveness)

Ok Mitron, it`s going to be Rani ki Vav in Patan, the Salt flats of Kutch, the Somnath temple, onwards to picturesque Diu, the Sabarmati Ashram, a trip to a lesser know marine wildlife sanctuary and back. (Plus a detour or two)

I`ll be sharing the entire detailed itinerary at the end of this article so stay stuck

Here is the format of the trip, 
  1. We set out in early morning, 
  2. Reach our destination before sundown, check in at the hotel
  3. Check out the place and the attractions next morning (it`s less crowded and You look fresh and the pics turn out great)
  4. Leave for the onward destination, fix Your lunch midway
  5. Go to step 2
Ready?? it` a 3800km trip!!
Let`s Go!!

The beautiful Sahasra Bahu temples make Udaipur more than just a Pit Stop, cause it`s on the highway 20KMs before the main city with no dearth of good hotels around, and then there is the much revered EkLingji Temple close by, for the more religious amongst You. But trust me You`ll find the Non functional archaelogical wonder of SahasraBahu, which can rival those at Khajuraho in sophistication, more appealing than the functioning and crowded Eklingji (Delhi-Udaipur 650KMs.) 

Next Stop was intended to be Patan, 261KMs away for the beautiful and hugely popular, Rani Ki Vav, an 11th century step well, but we reckoned that, there is another ancient wonder 35Kms from Patan, and that is the famous sun temple of Modhera.
No serious detour required and hours to go before sundown we drove right in.

If Poetry is etched in stone, the Sun Temple of Modhera would be an Epic, cause the scale of this wonder is seen to be believed, but this temple is more than just grandeur and scale, there is unparalleled finesse and sophistication, and one entire article can`t do justice to it. You have to be there to understand what I`m saying.
I was there, before sundown, so it was very crowded, wish it was morning cause the riff raff are mostly late risers.

This is Lord Bramha, with pointed and twirled mustaches and a thin pointed beard, unlike the thick heavy beard, that we normally expect Him to sport, infact in Sahasra Bahu too, Bramha is shown with sharp features and smallish eyes. Surprised!!

Onwards to Patan, for our visit to the wonder of Rani ki Vav. Imagine inverting a temple by starting at the surface and then going downwards as You progress. Rani ki Vav is not just a step well, but a unique temple showcasing the entire famly tree of divine superheroes, plus a few from the league of extraordinary Ladies. 

This one is from the Royalty of Ayodhya, currently at the centre of a bitter property fued mired in Litigation, generally seen with a Bow and Arrow, seen here with a Sword and Shield. Rare!!

and there is the Swine Divine, Viraha, who in Lord Vishnu`s Dashavtaram, ranks above both Lord Ram and Lord Krishna, seen here rescuing Bhoo devi after an epic 1000 year battle.
I`m told there are massive temples dedicated to Viraha in other parts of the country.. So I guess it`s not just the Cows, the entire animal farm is sacred.

But the most interesting is this,  "La Belle Dame sans Mercy",
as the guard describes her - Beautiful as a Peacock, Intelligent as an Owl, and Vicious as a Cobra.
Random carvings or rather cravings by the sculptor, to create a "gallerie de la femme fatale" with little or no connection to mythology or religion.
Sadly, large parts of this sub terranian wonder are out of bounds because the bhuj earthquake rendered the structure unstable and hazardous, but don`t miss it on Your trip to Gujarat.


Driving on, our next stop is The Rann of Kutch, some 380 KMs away
One word to describe the drive, Scenic. Our drive to gujarat was great not just because of the destinations, but the route as well.
Even while passing through towns the place seems somewhat depopulated, but totally safe.
Yes, safety was never a major concern.
The Rann to some, might turn out to be somewhat underwhelming or overhyped. If You don`t find beauty in a land which is stark barren and desolate, then Kutch is not the place for You.. in that case You can get all touristy and stuff and visit the nearby village Haats for some local pottery and try out the local costumes for a price. The Rann is worth Two nights, not less, not more.
Points to remember- 
  1. You`ll need a permit to enter the Rann, and that is available online(always carry a few hard copies of the same)
  2. Stay clear of the Rann Utsav
  3. You can drive all the way to the Border(get prior permission)

Kala Dungar Hill near Rann
The Co Driver www.allwhatshewants.com

the Famous Khavda Pottery

Tired of Reading?? No??
Actually, the best part is further ahead, towards Jamnagar, 325KMs away, at the Narara Marine National Reserve.

This one place was the crowning jewel of the entire trip, infact it is worth a one way ticket to Jamnagar and Back, if You can bring Your kids along. Cause that is a real crab that I plucked out of the water just like this Octopus, with my bare hands at this very place.
You basically wade into ankle deep shallow waters during low tide and keep looking. Crabs are an easy find, and I found a total of four octopuses, and one grumpy Puffer fish, Plus a lot other stuff

Angry Puff
The author with the Octopus
Don`t be tempted to put a finger into it`s mouth, those teeth can cut through sea shells and rocks.

Holding Doc Ock is a unique experiece,
Yes, it feels gooey and yucky and You can also feel the powerful suction from it`s tenctacles on Your skin. If You don`t want it to slither away, just keep Your hand rolling to keep it on top

Here are the quick tips for Marine National Reserve
  1. Hire a guide.. Helping You with the Tide timings, to keeping You safe, He`ll be worth ever penny(I can share the contact)
  2. Book a stay in Beed(30KMs), not Jamnagar(70KMs) It`ll help If the LowTide comes early morning.
  3. Pick the kind of footwear that don`t mind getting wet.
  4. It`ll be slightly chilly in the morning but will get bright and and sunny and Warm as the day progresses
  5. Carry a bottle of water, and a few snacks, You`ll need it.. cause at this place, Time Flies. Three to Four Hours.. before You`re done(Kindly Do not Litter.. Please!!)
Chalo Mitron, Stay with me.. there are three more to go.. 
Up ahead, is Somnath, 230KMs away, the site of the Pratham Jyotirling, out of the 12 spread all over the country. Even if You are`nt the religious kind, the Somnath temple will be an unforgetable experience.. Built, ravaged, rebuilt, destroyed, repaired, pillaged again, resurrected again to be razed to the ground again, to be built one final time after Independence (surprisingly without controversy), this magnificent place of worship is how every other temple should be run and managed. No overbearing crowds, No menacing Godmen, No Touts, and No Garbage.
And the fact that it is situated bang on the wind washed beach adds to the overall experience.
Sadly, the Somnath Temple is also, No Mobiles, No Photography! So I have absolutely no pics to share. But take my word, come to this place, You`ll be convincing others to do the same for all time to come.

 The next place is not technically Gujarat, just as Chandigarh is not Punjab. 84 KMs onwards on our trip we land in Diu. Clearly one of the most underrated, yet overwhelming travel destinations of the country. 
I just love the way we planned this whole trip, my first time ever and without any assistance. We left Somnath liesurly after the customary morning arti and breakfast, and made it to Diu in just Two hours.

And we headed straight to the Diu Fort.
Fort Diu
The Portuguese ruled over the surrounding territories from this fort,
during the period 1537 - 1961 (for 424 years, the longest period by any colonial rule in the world)
Having fended off all invaders and sea bandits, the Fort now and it's artifacts now fall to erosion, corrosion and Neglect. Forget ticketed entry and paid parking, there is not a guard manning any gate in sight.

These Cannons on the west coast of India, once fended off Ottomans.. Yes.. Ottoman Turks, who sailed from Egypt to lay siege to Diu.
We are so overawed with the History of the Delhi region alone, that it's astounding to know that the Portuguese built this place during the reign of Humayun.. Yes Humayun.. that long ago..
More than Goa,
it is at Diu that the Portuguese left an everlasting impression in India.
But Diu is so much better , cause this is Goa minus the crowd and the long travel distances. Everything here is just 30mins away. 

The Fort, the Beach, and the truly fascinating Naida caves. which is actually just alongside the Fort 
Ladies and Gentlemen, Naida Caves.. the most photogenic rock formations.. straight from a children's story book

 This was not even on the itinerary, and I just happened to find it on the net while I was Diu.. and what a find it was.again, No ticketed entry or any restrictions whatsoever, this is popular with wedding and prewedding photographers.. Absolutely Mind blowing. Yes.. Diu can blow You away And You`ll need two full days to take in most of Diu. There is lot more in Diu and a second trip is clearly overdue

Shot on Huawei Honor 6x
The next two destinations are basically Pitstops, on the long way back to Home in NCR, so first up, Ahmedabad made a lot of sense and so did the serene Sabarmati Ahsram in Ahmedabad. Located right next to the Sabarmati river, this once was the sacred abode of the Real Gandhi, now housing a museum dedicated to His Life and His Thought.
Sabarmati Ashram

 Spend some quality time here, this is not the place to rush through..
like I had to because, Pushkar my final pitstop, had to be reached before sundown
The Pushkar Lake
and Rush through was what I did even at Pushkar, cause I wanted to enter Delhi before the evening madness makes the final few kilometers, a Drag..  but You can add one more night to Pushkar or add Jaipur and leave for home next morning. 
So at the end of this trip of 3800KMs we were`nt tired or exhausted having reached home way before sundown, right on time for the evening tea.

This was a trip that we feel immensely proud of. Initially while planning for this trip we were anxious and scared of missing out something unforseen, but there were no unpleasant surprises. 
We also wanted to make this trip a healthy one and also plastic free. So through out the trip, we did not buy snacks or water bottles. 
For munchies we bought fruits of which there was not shortage on the trip,
and for water we carried our own bottles which we got refilled during our stops.

Having fruit on the road had a surprising advantage apart from the clear health benefits. We would generally be topped up with enough calories, to let us skip a lunch break and save valuable driving time. On the road, we were rarely hungry for a food break.

You just have to trust Your instincts to make it happen and also Your car to carry You through. And if You still feel a little nervous just follow the itinerary pasted below. I preplanned it finalised it before I set out and stuck to it. 

Day 1 (31st Dec)
Dep at 6 am
Delhi to Udaipur-650 km-11 hrs
(Rishika Clarke`s Inn) Booked

Day 2 (1st Jan)
Sightseeing at Sahastrabahu Temple, Udaipur
Udaipur to Patan-261 km-4 hrs
 (Patan Stay) The Grand Raveta Hotel Booked

Day 3 (2nd Jan)
Sightseeing in Patan
Patan to Dhordo-387 km- 7hrs
(stay at Rann) Gateway Resort Booked

Day 4 (3rd Jan)
Khavda and Rann of Kutch
(Stay at Rann) Gateway Resort Booked

Day 5 ( 4th Jan)
Rann to Jamnagar – 325 km- 6.20 min
(MNP night Stay )

Day 6 (5th Jan)
Marine National Park – Somnath – 230km – 4.30 hrs
(Stay at Somnath) Lord Inn Booked

Day 7 (6th Jan)
Somnath – Diu- 84km
(Stay at Diu) Rasal Beach Resort Booked

Day 8 (7th Jan)
Diu- Ahmedabad – 360km – 8 hrs
(Stay at Ahmedabad) Booked

Day 9 (8th Jan)
Ahmedabad – Pushkar- 542 km- 10hrs
 (Stay at Pushkar)

Day 10 (9th Jan)
Pushkar - Noida- 415 km- 7 hrs

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Temple Ruin

Belief, is a beautiful thing. 
We believe that we don`t just exist as organic matter on this interstellar spherical mass, but we like to call ourselves stardust.. Cause we like to see ourselves up there among the stars and not grounded on the third rock from the sun. 
So we build not just roads to get to office in time, airports to fly to our annual vacation spots, stadiums and ampitheatres to keep us entertained and Hospitals to keep us alive a little longer, we actually go ahead and build something lot less utilitarian, but something truly monumental
We imagine superheroes and build elaborate fables around them, even assigning them places in a family tree.. and just so that our stories and fantasies be told and retold, we carve
 our magnum opus in stone.

One such endeavor was mounted in Kiradu, 35KM from present day Barmer, culminating in the construction of an entire complex of Temples.. all 150 of them..
not many of them survive today.. infact barely five of them managed to weather all odds to tell the stories of their creators and designers.
Rock Anthem

Built, probably during the 11th and 12th century AD, temples like these are a bioscope into an ancient world. The designers through their creation were talking not just about their superheroes, but also about their life and times. Through their sculptures, we also get a fair idea about their value and belief system.
Happy God
where it was okay to depict even Gods, in rather relaxed positions and the feminine kind were the dominant kind with a penchant for fine clothing and exquisite jewellery. The feminine kind with less than kind proportions who seemed to prefer ornaments over garments even as they went about their daily routine. The body proportions look ordinary by today`s standard or maybe that, was the standard then.

Wonder what explains the number of female figures that one encounters in the temple.. maybe the architects just wanted the monuments to look beautiful or maybe it was the predominant sight during those days
Loaded beauty
bejeweled gait
Look at those dreamy eyes..
Perhaps the use of the sexualised form was a natural choice and not borne out of special consideration, cause this was a society which celebrated Virility and not Virginity, and, maybe there lay the encrypted invitation to trouble

Soon in the centuries to come this site was visited by a people with an ethos that valued Virginity, (especially female) above other things, and restricted the display of physical beauty...
There must have been other differences as well, mostly irreconcilable, and so the temple, deemed profane, took the brunt of the conflict and lost roughly ninety five percent of it`s structure.
But this is just stone and rock, it can take a lot of pounding, imagine the plight of the people,
especially the artists who 
with their own eyes
 saw vandals at work ..
Let`s just hope they all fled, in time, to build another day.
rock group

Sad, is`nt it, nothing is immortal, not even a great work of art.

And there can be no greater sin than to destroy a work of art, a work of art as magnificent as the Temples of Kiradu.
A somewhat lesser sin would be the ignorance about the existence of such heritage.

I never knew it existed until I actually visited it.. never heard of it.. was largely clueless about most of the figures adorning the temple 

Dance of Death
Femme Fatale

I`m told, the lady on the left with a skull on a pole is Goddess Durga, and the guy above is probably Lord Shiva,
Private Chambers

These dames are called Yoginis, I believe
No Idea who these lovers are..

And I know very little about the rest of the lordships

The remaining Five percent is still scattered around the site having survived first the Vandals, and then smugglers of antiquities. 
But it remains a photographer`s delight.. You can effortlessly drain Your camera batteries here for great shots, with few tourists to photobomb Your Frames(the remoteness and the local weather keeps most away). 

This place is also reachable via Jaislamer and this is just the weather to be in Rajasthan, so while You make Your travel plans, sample some more of the pics.

The Kiradu Temples are often compared with the Khajuraho complex in it`s architectural sophistication, but there is nothing but softcore to be found here, the Hardcore is all gone I guess.

hmm .. I guess I could just go on and on... and on..

The kiradu temples were introduced to us by the Suryagarh, Jaisalmer. Just one of the ways our hosts made the trip truly memorable.

watch the video to know more about our hosts.