Travel Stories from Bihar- Vaishali and its Bride

Beautiful, virgin and young-the girl had the sensuousness that few matched.Was she the next City Bride?What is the story?Welcome to India

India celebrated her 67th Republic Day on January 26th, this year.For us, it was a milestone.It was time to pause and appreciate the journey of our nation from a one democracy to our present one.Yes, more than 2500 years back, we had a republic but, not many in India and abroad know about it.The capital of this republic was Vaishali.

Vaishali was hemmed in by the powerful kingdoms of Magadh, Kosal and many others. Hers was a tenuous existence as Vaishali was a prosperous city.and every other neighbour was eyeing her wealth.

Actually, Vaishali was the capital of the Vajji confederacy. A luxurious city with lots of lotus ponds and more than 7000 pleasure houses, Vaishali was coveted for its riches by its neighbours.Today, very little is left of its ancient riches and ponds.

The kingdom of Vaishali occupied large parts of the Himalayan-Gangetic area of today’s Bihar.It is said that there was a great expanse of a forest, called Mahavan that extended from the northern banks of the Ganga to the Himalayan foot hills.But, let us get back to the amazing story of Vaishali.

The republic of Vajjis was ruled by more than 7000 representatives and each one of them came from a noble family.These representatives were elected officials but, not every one could stand for elections.So, the Vajjis were more an oligarchy than a model democracy.

Once elected, these representatives were anointed with the holy waters of a pond called Abhishek Pushkarini. Travellers to Vaishali can still see this more than 2500 year old pond.

Abhishek Pushkarini
Abhishek Pushkarini

But, Vaishali is also known for an astonishing custom- that of appointing the most beautiful virgin as the Bride of the City!

Glorious Rape

The most famous bride was Amrapali and her life has inspired several movies and novels.

Amrapali looked like this, probably
Amrapali looked like this, probably

The city bride was available to anyone who bid the highest price for her company, so you can guess the amount of money that these glorified courtesans made.It was an inhuman rule.There was no other option for the unfortunate chosen girl but to agree with this insane custom.The representatives of the republic justified this barbaric practice in the name of avoiding jealousy among the citizens !

Amrapali was no exception to this rule and she detested it.Each night, she had to submit her beautiful body to the highest lover.It was glorious rape.

Filled with revulsion, Amrapali approached the powerful King of Magadh, Bimbisar with an offer- if he liberated her from the clutches of Vajjis , she would help him overcome them.After all, who other than the beautiful and sensuous Amrapali knew the insides out of all the 7000 plus senators of the republic!A deadly fight ensued between the Vajjis and the Magadhis but, the valiance and bravery of the democrats were no match with the guile of their adversaries. The Vajjis lost the war and their republic was over run by the imperial forces.Amrapali had exacted her revenge, finally.

Vaishali was the birthplace of Lord Mahavira , one of the 24 tirthankaras of Jainism.Lord Gautam Buddha is also said to have delivered some sermons in Vaishali.Amrapali had offered one of her gardens to Buddha for his sermons.It is entirely possible that Lord Buddha borrowed some of his concepts regarding Buddhist assemblies from the Vajji democracy.

The present day village of Basrah in Vaishali district of Bihar has been identified by Alexander Cunningham with the ancient city of Vaishali.

As I wrote earlier, Amrapali has captured the imagination of Hindi movie directors. A movie by the same name was produced in the 1960s and the actress who played the role of the courtesan was Vaijyanthimala. Just enjoy one of its lilting songs;

You will agree with me that it has a haunting  feel, isn’t it? In this track, Amrapali is seen pining for her lover Bimbisar.

Why the name Vaishali?

There are two theories why the city was so named.One theory says that it was named after an ancient king called, Vishal.However, a Buddhist commentator, Buddhaghosa says that because the city was huge or vishal, it was named Vaishali.



How to reach?

  • Air: The nearest airport is Patna (70 Kms).
  • Rail: Hajipur on the north eastern railway station (35 Kms) from Muzaffarpur Railway station (40 Kms)
  • Road: Vaishali is well connected by road to Patna (56 Kms), Muzaffarpur (36 Kms) and Hazipur (35 Kms)

I would strongly recommend you to visit this offbeat but amazing destination for the sheer historicity of the place.Imagine coming face to face with places associated with a history of more than 2500 years! I am sure, it would give you goosebumps.For more interesting stuff, you may click this link;

http://bstdc.bih.nic.in/vaishali.htm

This is the official website of Bihar government tourism development corporation.

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Thanks for reading this post and dropping by.

 

 

Top Stories of India;Shani Shingnapur

The god promised there won’t be any thefts in the village till such time the villagers worshipped him.What is the story?

For travellers planning to visit India, here is another amazing story of an offbeat destination, Shani Shingnapur.Located in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, India, this place attracts millions of devotees every year. Most of them visit the shrine during amavasya, or the moonless nights of every month.

People do not lock up their houses in this small hamlet ! Post offices, banks, government offices are always unlocked.But, why?

Locals say that several thousands of years ago, a shepherd happened to touch a pointed stone with a sharp object.The stone started “bleeding” and the shepherd was amazed. When he lay down to sleep that night, he dreamt of Lord Shani visiting him. Lord Shani or Lord Saturn is considered to be one of the most important gods in the Hindu pantheon. His devotees worship him because he removes obstacles in their lives.Lord Shani is the son of Surya or the Sun god.

Shingnapur
Image courtesy-Wikipedia

The Lord commanded him to put up a temple for Him and that temple shall have no roof for “the sky will be my roof”.The Lord also said that  so long as the devotees would worship him, there would be no thefts and robberies.”Do not put any locks on your doors, it is not advised”, the Lord told the shepherd.

So, since then, the local residents keep their doors unlocked and largely, there have no robberies and thefts. Isn’t it amazing?

The shrine at Shani Shingnapur is in news these days for a very strange reason.You see, us Indians worship the Lord by offering and bathing him with mustard oil.Even I do not know why he is worshipped this way.If you know the reason, do let me and other fellow readers know.

In this hamlet, there is this rule that only the males are allowed to worship the deity. Ladies do not have this privilege.

A few years back, a young woman decided to break this taboo.She sneaked into the temple and offered the Lord His favourite mustard oil.The stage was set for a confrontation of the women folk with the temple authorities.

Inspired by this young lady, the women folk of the hamlet, this month, have decided to break this tradition once again and open the doors of this temple for the fair sex once and for all.They have promised to themselves that if the temple authorities shut the doors on them, they will take a helicopter to reach the Lord!

Ok, this morning, I read in the papers that the group of women headed to Shani Shingnapur for opening the doors of the temple has been detained by the police 70 kilometres from the hamlet.

What is the truth? I enquired from ,my friends about the actual ground situation at Shani Shingnapur village.Apparently, women are allowed to enter the temple and worship the deity but, nobody, apart from the priest is allowed to go close to the idol.One has to be a priest to go up to the idol. Fair point, I must say.One has to adhere to the rules of the temple.

How to reach ; Shani Shingnapur can be reached by train and flight.The nearest airport is at Aurangabad (56 miles).Shani Shingnapur is  at 165 miles from Mumbai.

Also readhttps://books.google.co.in/books?id=Kpd9lLY_0-IC&pg=PA26&dq=SHINGaNAPUR&as_brr=3&client=firefox-a&hl=en

http://daily.bhaskar.com/article/theft-in-shani-shingnapur-village-1492802.html

How do you like this post, my friends? Please write in and share your impressions.

India Travel;Chai Affairs

I would have had close to 50. 000 cups of Chai by now.Maybe more!Chai to me, like many other Indians, is an escape, antidote and  prescription to a peppy life\

 

Tea1

 

Unlike the West, there is no ideal time to have a cup of Chai. Any waking second, minute or hours is the right time to have it.No wonder,India is one of the largest producers of tea in the world.

Chai sees no class divided.The rich have it in their fancy crockery, the middle class have it in their steel tumblers while the hoi polloi have this potion in their glass tumblers.It is just the vessels in which the liquid is served ,that make the difference.The ingredients remain the same and the spirit of expectancy is the LCM across the classes.

Chai3

I had had my first cup of Chai or tea when I was ten and since then, there has been no looking back.

I have two brothers and both of them fell for the strange logic that it is not for young kids and that Chai makes the skin darker.The after taste of Chai was too much for me to get this bait- hook, line and sinker.Over the years, there has not been one single day, when I have not consumed this magic potion.

You may also enjoy this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbn9lNRklos   on the only Sanskrit rock band in thhe world.

People who know me well will easily define me as one Chai ‘addict”.Well, I am not an addict, but, Chai forms an inescapable part of my daily life.

Chai5

But, the fascination for this liquid is not limited to me , there are millions of Indians who are fond of it.So, you will have roadside vends of chai and now you also have special tea parlours for all things Chai.I would not name them because, I am not paid for name calling , you see!

Some great stories and conspiracies have been woven around Chai.And so, have countless romances !Kings and ministers visiting India have had their encounters with Indians over a cup of brew.Directionless and meandering conversations have found their meanings in Chai bars.Laughter and giggle, melancholy  and words of encouragement, all become an integral part of this concoction.No colour of Indian life escapes getting imbued with Chai.It has become a part of our national consciousness.Elections have been contested and won on the average Indian’s fondness for tea.Our Indian Prime Minister used our fondness for tea/chai to win his elections through this campaign, Chai pe Charcha -or Discussion over tea,

Chai4

Have you heard of that Chai wala in Delhi who while selling tea on the pavements of Delhi , also writes books?Or the Chai vendor who has travelled much more than probably you and I?

tea vendor2

There are a million stories around Chai and by the time the Suns sets today, another few thousands will be added to that repertoire.

Yes. ladies and gentlemen,India can best be understood over a cup of Chai.

 

 

Her first solo travel- did she make it safely to her place?

This was her first solo travel and she was anxious to reach her home quickly but, was nervous and apprehensive.What happened to her  in her train journey was beyond her wildest dreams!

solo travel
                                                        Travelling in India is safe for women
Growing up in Rewa

Her marriage to a guy from Delhi was one hell of an experience for this young bride.She had grown up in Rewa, one of the smaller cities in India, and hers was a life full of cheer and good times.Like many other girls in her city, she too had grown up in a joint family .There were uncles,aunts, cousin brothers and sisters, doting grandparents , and off course ,her parents and siblings.

She knew everyone in that small town and everyone loved her back.There were no strangers.The odd shopkeeper,the bank manager, the colleagues of her professor dad in the local college and his students, the TTE of the passenger train that stopped at the Rewa railway station, every one was known to her.

Life was an oyster for this good natured girl.

Rail3

Engagement and then Marriage

A few months later, like most of the girls her age, she too got engaged to a boy from Delhi.

Delhi was an amazing city for her, she had been to it a couple of times and sort of liked the capital of India.Broad avenues, the Delhi Metro, the malls, the works, wow, Delhi had life, she noted.

Astrologers of the parents of the groom and the bride consulted each other and finally arrived at a mutually acceptable date of marriage. A few days later, the girl was married to the guy and she moved to saddi Dilli.

Rail4

In India, we have this custom of recently married girls visiting their parents after a couple of months.Normally, the husband accompanies his bride to her parent’s place but in this case, our dude was super busy with his corporate job.I can’t take anymore leaves, he told her in an embarrassed  tone.

But, I have never traveled alone, sweetie, she tried to explain to the hubbbie. It is a long journey to Rewa and I will be all alone in the train, she tried to reason out with him.

But, it was quickly decided that she had to travel alone .Oh my god, how will I cope with this solo trip, she thought back and worried.

Tickets were booked and she got a reserved berth in the Sleeper Class.

Railway2_zps5d8e03b9

 

D Day arrived and she was all set in her berth.

Take care sweetie, her husband chirped as the train chugged out of the railway station.

No stares, please!!!

Settled in her berth, our young bride looked out of the window taking in the countryside.She was trying to avoid the passengers around her, largely composed of men.Oh my god, how will I cope up with this bunch of men,they look so lousy, she thought.

Her  first solo travel had just begun.

Determined to avoid her noisy neighbors, she finished her dinner, laid down her bedding and lay down on her berth. Eyes closed, she tried to go to sleep but the noisy young men kept her awake with their incessant chatter..Some one switched off the cabin lights and a sense of fear overpowered her. Rewa was still 24 hours away.

O my dear lord, when will my solo travel end?She sent out a silent prayer to her maker.

It was a long night.The young men were continuously arguing among themselves on every topic under the Sun- politics, cricket , the Bollywood heartthrobs.

Why can’t they let me sleep? Meanwhile, some one started belting out a ballad from rural India.Somewhere in the cabin, a young man lit a cigarette to beat the cold.

What rascals, she thought to herself. My god, why did I have to do to this solo travel?

 

solo travel
                                    The steam engine was discontinued from service in 2000 AD

She did not know when sleep overpowered her.

Come dawn, the first of the sun rays peeped through the windows and lit her face up.She got up and quickly sized up the situation.She looked around -the same set of young people were around her.She could recognize them with their voices.But ,she felt weird-they were all gawking at her.She quickly checked her dress. Okay, I am neatly covered, she said to herself, but, why are they staring at me?

Some solo travel!

Arrey, madam jag gayein !(Oh, madam is awake now),some one squeaked in excitement.The bunch of young men came closer to the solo woman traveler. Madam, don’t you recognize us, some one asked.

No, but, your voice seems familiar, she replied .

Madam, I am Sunil, your dad’s student in his class,and the guy over there is Rajiv, another of your dad’s students, the young man introduced himself.And all of us here are students of the same college in Rewa, where your papa is a Professor., he continued.We recognized you late and we are sorry for our stupid behavior. Would you like to have a cup of tea, Sunil asked?.

The next 24 hours of the trip to Rewa in that train were some of the best moments for our bride.She was no longer alone,she was once again in her oyster.

 

 

 

 

Forts of India

Top Stories;Jodhpur;Wow!

How do I rid the fort of the curse?”Don’t worry, O King, bury me alive and you shall live peacefully!”The amazing story of Jodhpur.

Forts of India
Mehrangarh;courtesy;Internet images

This is another amazing story of an amazing destination in India-Jodhpur.Backpackers planning to visit India would be certainly interested to know some unknown stories about this place.

The famous fort of Mehrangarh in Jodhpur was built more than 500 years back by an ambitious Rajput prince, Rao Jodha.He was a brave lad and served the mighty king, Rana Kumbha of Chittor for sometime but, he was dissatisfied with his status and position in Chittor. Jodha was a Rathor Rajput and wanted to be independent of his master, Kumbha.

One day, Jodha consulted Kumbha and made the latter aware of his intentions.The large hearted Kumbha gave Jodha the due permission and off Jodha went westward to Mandore, the ancient capital of Rathors. .There he gathered a few of his followers and  thus began an exercise to identify the site of his new fort.

Forts of India
Inside the Fort.Courtesy; www.sight-and-culture.com

One day,Jodha came upon a hill that seemed ideal to him for building a fort.It had steep sides and was difficult to climb.Very good, Jodha thought, let us have a new fort here.And so, Mehrangarh came into existence.

Shaped like a feather of a peacock, the pure name of the fort is Mihirgarh.The word “Mihir” stands for Sun and it is the presiding deity of the Rathors.

The curse upon Mehrangarh

As, the workers began erecting the fort, a yogi came to them and ordered them to stop! Why should we stop,O holy man, they asked? Because it is my abode and you are destroying my peace, the yogi said.Jodha would have none of the protestations of the yogi and continued with his work.

 

Angry with the king, the yogi cursed the fort with the problem of water scarcity.Now, there was a real problem, no water, no work.

Bury me alive

Worried,the king consulted with his priests.One of them advised him that not less than the burial of a living man would rid the fort of this curse!But, the second problem was finding the volunteer for this horrific self sacrifice.

Drumrolls ensued and a  message was broadcast to all and sundry that whosoever would volunteer to be buried alive at the site of the fort would be suitably rewarded.

fORTS OF iNDIA
Bury me alive

When, an aging and destitute sadhu heard about this offer, he could not stop himself from going to Jodha and offering himself for this sacrifice.Rajaram was clear that this was an opportunity he was not going to miss.

Do you really want to offer yourself for this task, Jodha asked Rajaram.O King, I am clear in my head, do not procrastinate, bury me alive now, the sadhu replied.

And so,the sadhu Rajaram was buried alive on the hill and the beautiful fort of Mehrangarh came upon his body?Hauntingly beautiful, isn’t it?

Rao Jodha
Rao Jodha

Jodha made sure the dependants of Rajaram were rewarded heavily, though no amount of compensation could wash away their grief.The famous garden, Raja Bagh in Jodhpur belongs to Rajaram’s descendants.And, to this day they have the unique privilege of playing drums and other instruments inside the fort on various festivals like Holi and Diwali.For Jodha and his descendants , Rajaram was a very very special man.

After all, he had saved the fort from the curse!

How to reach Jodhpur

Jodhpur is well connected with Jaipur and Delhi through various flights like Jetair, Air India, Spice and others.Delhi is connected to rest of the world through British Airways,Air France, KLM, Japan Airlines, Qantas and many others.

Train connectivity is excellent and you can book your train through www.irctc.com It is the number one e commerce site of India and is run by the Government of India.

Where to stay in Jodhpur

Though there are several luxury hotels in Jodhpur, I would recommend you to check out this website; www.rajasthantourism.gov.in  This is the official website of the government and you will get the best possible prices of hotels.

Best time to travel to Jodhpur is between October and March, so plan your trip to India now.

How do you find this post, my friends?

Thanks for reading it.Please write me an email in case you want more information.

 

 

India in Pictures

No text , just pictures. Enjoy some of my clicks , my friends!

Monuments of India
Jain Temple at Mehrauli
Monuments of India
The historic gurudwara at Chandni Chowk
This dude is a lawyer!Comic Con 2015
This dude is a lawyer!Comic Con 2015
selfie time!
selfie time!

 

Festivals of India
A happy salesman always sells more
alt="Sweets of Vrindavan"
Yumminess infinity- at Vrindavan
Monuments of Delhi
This was one of my first clicks when I started my blog-The Library at Purana Qila, Delhi
Transported back in time-With a couple of historical characters of India
Transported back in time-With a couple of historical characters of India
alt="Flavours of Vrindavan"
You cannot avoid the lassi of Vrindavan
Monuments of India
One of my favourite clicks-Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi
Indian music

The Amazing All Sanskrit Rock Band

So, you thought Sanskrit is a dead language?Think again.

Last week, I had the opportunity of sitting through an amazing performance of an all Sanskrit rock band.Yeah, you read it right.The young people in the troupe sang in Sanskrit with the accompaniment of guitar,tabla, dholak and the synthesizer.

Indian Music
Dhruva- World’s one and only Sanskrit band

This is the only band in the world that sings in Sanskrit and is led by Dr. Sanjay Dwivedi who is all of 31 years of age.The name of the band is Dhruva and the word is Sanskritic.The term ‘Dhrupad” owes its origin toi the word Dhruva.Dhrupad, as we all know is as old as the Vedas, probably more than 4000 years old and as we all know, is a world famous music style.

The band sung a couple of compositions of Adi Shankaracharya and I hope you will like it greatly.I must confess I am a video amateur so, the video here is somewhat shaky.

Ah, here is the youtube link; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FU6Uk5FAS6M&feature=youtu.be

In the mean time, please enjoy the pictures.

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Pragati Maidan Sanskrit Jam
The response was enthusiastic

 

I am sorry for the extremely short length of this post.

Thanks for reading this post.

Khajuraho;5 reasons why it has so much of sex on its walls

 

 

KhajurahoKhajuraho is not just sex, there is a deeper reason why there is lots of it on the temple walls.Know about it it when you visit India.

The world famous temples of Khajuraho are in Indian state of Madhya Pradesh and are located in its Chhatarpur district.Built in the 10th century by the Chandel rulers, the temples evoke a feeling of awe among the travellers.when these see erotic images on its walls.Of the 85 temples that were constructed by the Chandels, only 29 are remaining.

images of Khajuraho

There are several theories behind the eroticism on the temple walls that have been drawing visitors to it for the past several years.

Khajuraho-Temple-2

  1. It is said that Chandra Deva or the Moon god had seduced a beautiful woman and the son  born out of the wedlock founded the kingdom of Khajuraho.The son was ordered by his mother to build temple that depicted lust and the futility in pursuing it.
  2. The second theory says that then kings desired that their populace embrace worldly desires  for material development as Buddhism discouraged marriage and love among men and women.
  3. Another theory says that the Chandel rulers were tantric in disposition and thus wanted a temple for their tantric worship.
  4. Some scholars are of the opinion that young male students , through these sculptures, were exposed to the world of sex in the early years of their lives.
  5. Lastly, a large number of scholars are of the view that the temple sculptures guide the devout the path of attaining God through the journey of life , explained through sex.The inner parts of the temple are devoid of erotic images and the inner sanctum sanctorum is occupied by the idol of gods.

What do you think?

How to reach Khajuraho; There is an airport here that connects with flights from Varanasi.Khajuraho is also well connected through bus services with Bhopal, Rewa and Jhansi.

Thank you for reading this post.

Ballads of India

What is the story of the ageless warrior of India

 Do you  really believe that there is a 900 year old warrior in India?
Sung in a vigorous tone across vast swathes of northern India, Alha ( shortened form of Alha Udal) stirs emotions of romance,chivalry, bravery, duty and death..The ballad details the exploits of the brother duo of Alha-Udal, sons of a commander of the  chieftain of Bundelkhand.The name of the chieftain was Parmal and the brothers we are referring to were Alha and Udal.
Parmal was a contemporary of Prithviraj Chauhan, the ruler of Ajmer and Delhi and a formidable king who lorded over a vast area of North India.The Chauhan brooked no opposition to his authority and was always on the look out for an opportunity to bring Parmal under his thrall.Parmal was a Chandel Rajput while Prithviraj was a Chauhan, so the two tribes were always at war with each other .
Despite mounting regular attacks on Parmal, Prithviraj never tasted success.Alha and his brother, Udal invariably dented the Chauhan’s campaigns and their exploits ultimately took the form of the ballad.We always root for the underdog and in this case, the underdogs were the two brothers.I am talking of the events that played out in northern India more than 900 years ago.
Alha and Udal
Alha was the elder brother and was  the embodiment of Dharma or Righteousness. He always believed in doing things the right way and in consonance with morality.He had an aversion for war and possessed  the power to bring back to life dead soldiers.
Legends say that he was granted the boon of  immortality by the Maihar goddess. Maihar is a small village close to Satna and the goddess’ temple is perched atop a hill.The goddess is Devi Saraswati- the goddess of learning.
Ballads of India
The man who has inspired countless stories down the ages-Alha
It is widely believed that every year, on a specified day, Alha comes to the temple and offers floral tributes to the Devi.Do you think that this temple is haunted?
Temples of India
Temple of Maihar Devi, Sharada, also known as the Goddess of Learning

​Alha was married to the one of the most beautiful ladies of his times,Sona, the princess of Nainagarh, now known as Chunar in Uttar Pradesh.The fort of Chunar is considered to be one of the most mysterious places in India.

Indian Travel
Remnants of the wrestling stadium of the Alha Udal
Udal, on the other hand, was  opposite to his brother in temperament  and was impulsive in nature.Always looking for a battle, he died fighting for his friend , the son of Parmal, who wanted to marry the sister of Prithviraj Chauhan.The name of the son was Bramha and the girl was Bela.Bramha died in that war.Upon learning that Bramha had perished, Bela committed sati or self-immolation.
,
Watch this video on Youtube to get a sense of Alha; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Q7mM3Wxuao
Udal had fought with the Lord of Devas, Indra and captured his 5 best horses.One day, Udal was ferrying his horses across the Ganga when one of them fell off the barge and drifted southward to Nainagarh.The king of Nainagarh rescued the horse and kept it for himself.A few months later, after the marriage of Alha to his daughter, the king gifted this horse to Alha.
In mediavel India, it was considered heroic for a Rajput to win his bride in a war. Udal was no stranger to this practice and he also  had his share of his moment of glory of winning his bride in war.His bride was the friend of the princess of Nainagarh.
So, these are two main dramatis personae of  Alha Rudal.
Though, the duo lived their lives and fout all their wars in Central India, the ballad has an appeal that cuts across parts of East Rajasthan, Central India,, Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and even Assam.Isn’t it amazing?
Even today, when you venture into the villages of Bundelkhand (which is actually the area around Chambal river in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh(,you can still stumble upon small groups of people enjoying the ballad in the evenings.
In the 1970s, parts of Central India were racked by the dacoit problem.Gangs of dacoits used the barrel of their guns to terrorise and loot the citizens of villages.While,land disputes were one of the principal reasons behind this violence, the tipping point was the vivid imagery of Alha story telling.Often, impressionable young men simply clinched their guns and rushed to murder their rivals after a session of Alha.So potent was its after effect,much like opium!
In modern times, Alha story telling has inspired a bunched a of Hindi song writers and movie directors to come up with their adaptations and interpretations of the ballad.
If you are planning to visit India and explore the areas associated with Alha and Udal,then these are the places that must be on your bucket list-Khajuraho, Mahoba, Kalinjar,Maihar, Panna and Rewa.I shall be happy to help you in your travel itinerary.
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Thanks for reading this post.
Indian Stories

Kalpavriksha,The Magical Tree;What is the story?

What if you had a tree that fulfilled all of your wishes?Good food,expensive clothes, money, everything?I am not joking.If you are planning to visit India, then, read on..

The village of Mangaliyawas in Ajmer holds the distinction of having a Kalpavriksha, the magical tree.So does,a village in Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh.

But, what is Kalpavriksha?

According to Indian traditions, millions of years ago, the gods and demons decided to churn the ocean for the overall benefit of the humanity..Several goodies came up the ocean and one of them was the blessed tree of Kalpavriksha. It was supposed to grant every boon to anyone who stayed or lived under it.Such was its power !

Indian Stories
Churning of the Ocean-Samudra Manthan!

The gods or devas were clever.One day, the Lord of the devas decamped with the tree and for a long long time, the sacred tree remained with them until, one day,when Lord Krishna decided to own it.He attacked Nandanvan or the garden of Indra, Lord of devas and made Indra surrender the sacred tree.The tree was later gifted by Krishna to Satyabhama , his wife.

There is a popular belief that Kalpavriksha is still present in India.There are at least two places in India- Mangaliyawas in Ajmer (Rajasthan) and Barabanki (Uttar Pradesh)-that claim to have Kalpvriksha.I am not sure that these trees actually fulfil any boon to the locals but the species of these trees are extremely beneficial.For example, the Kalpavriksha in Rajasthan is actually a tree called Khejari that is extremely useful to the local community in providing firewood and also helps regenerate groundwater.Its roots go down deep in the soil and help check soil erosion.During extreme weather, the leavesof this tree remain green and are fit for consumption by domestic cattle like camels, sheep, goats , cows and bulls.

Visit India
Kalpavriksha near Ajmer, India

In the remote areas of India like Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, the plant of mahua is considered Kalpavriksha,as it provides for the local needs of the community.

In the mountainous stretches of Uttarakhand Himalayas,there is a particular mulberry tree that is supposed to be more than 2400 years old and is considered to be Kalpavrisha .Adi Shankaracharya, one of the greatest philosophers that this world has seen, is said to have meditated under this tree.Elsewhere, in the Himalayas,a particular tree, Chyur provides butter, jaggery and other good things to the local community.

A large number of Indians worship Ashwath or pipal tree as Kalpavriksha as it is supposed to be the abode of Hindu gods.

But, the Kalpavriksha at Barabanki in Uttar Pradesh is the tree that Lord Krishna is said to have been brought from Indra’s garden.It is actually baobab,a tree that is quite familiar to the people of Africa.

Amazing Destinations
Kalpavriksha in Barabanki

 

So, you see, there are different interpretations to this magical tree of Kalpavriksha.

Indian Stories
The story of Kalpavriksha is also prevalent in Indonesia

But, the story isn’t over yet! Do you know that Lord Shiva has a daughter too? Upon the birth of this daughter, the Lord requested Kalpavriksha to take care of the newborn child.This child grew up to be the Goddess of nature or forests and is called Vandevi.

So, what do you think of this post, friends?I hope, I have been able to tell you a little more of the amazing and offbeat destinations of India.

Thanks for reading this and dropping by.

Festival of Kites-Makar Sankranti-What is the Story?

The old grizzled warrior granted the wish to Arjuna Pandava.”Yes, I shall tell you the secret of my death, I shall die on Makar Sankranti!”

Dear travellers to India,

 

What is the story about Makar Sankranti?

As the Sun crosses starts its trip towards the Tropic of Cancer, the northern parts of India erupt in joy.Happy that the harsh winters are finally over,Indians begin their new year festivities with Lohri, Makar Sankranti and finally culminating in Holi, the festival of colors

The word “Makar” means the Tropic of Cancer while “Sankranti”stands for transition.Yes, you guessed it right, the twin words mean the transition of Sun toward the Tropic of Cancer.

Makar Sankranti means different things to different people.In Rajasthan and Gujarat, 14th January which is the precise date of Makar Sankranti,is marked by a festival of kites.Kites of different colours, patterns and sizes cover the skies of Jaipur and Rajasthan as families take to roofs and terraces .The kites are called “patang”in Hindi and other Indian languages.”Patang” also means Sun, so what is the story behind the flying of kites?

Festivals of India
Framed against the skies

The philosophical significance behind this festival is that flying of kites means means coming closer to the Supreme Being or the God almighty.Kite flying is also prevalent in Korea and East Asian countries.

Festivals of India
Even the Indian PM is fond of kites

Makar Sankranti is also observed by millions of Hindus by taking a sacred bath in the holy Ganga at Prayag or Allahabad. Prayag is the spot where two of the greatest rivers of India, Ganga and Yamuna come together and form a unified river, Ganga that flows onward towards the Bay of Bengal.There are devotees who spend a month in seclusion or “kalpvas” on the banks of Ganga.This period acts as detoxifier of sorts to the devotees.

Festivals of India
Sadhus jump in the Ganga with gay abandon

Have you visited Prayag?No?Ok, if you are planning to visit India next time, let me know so I can help you getting there.I swear, the grounds along the river give such a positive vibe that it seems beatific to be just there and doing nothing.It surely ranks as one of the most amazing destinations of India.

Festivals of India
Mother and her children;The devotees and Ganga

But, the story isn’t over yet!

Nearly 5000 years ago, when the two great armies of Pandavas and Kauravas were fighting each other on the plains of Kurukshetra, the commander -in- chief of the Kauravas fell to his enemies on Makar Sankranti!

Indian Stories
The Commander of the Kauravas who chose the day of his death

 

Thanks for reading this post, my friends.

 

Amazing India|Jagmandir Palace,Udaipur |What is the story?

An opulent hotel known the world over,Jagmandir Palace once provided sanctuary to a Mughal prince and his queen, on the run from his father .Who was he?What is the story behind it?

Dear travellers,

Today’s post is about an amazing destination in Udaipur that most of you know about.

No, I am not going to describe its architecture and services to you.I would not even rate it.

But,

I am going to share an amazing story behind this palace turned hotel- the Jagmandir Palace.

Palaces of India
One of the best hotels in the country, Jagmandir has an amazing piece of history behind it

More than 350 years back, an ambitious young prince -like his father-rebelled against his dad. Khurram, the young prince, thought that his time had come to take control of the Mughal throne and wrest it from his father, Jehangir.

My dad is lazy, an opiate and always drunk, so thought Khurram, so why can’t I take a shot at being the Emperor of Hindustan? Well, Khurram was partially right, he was a clever strategist and had won several wars for his dad’s empire! So, one day, he simply stopped obeying his dad’s orders.In short, he was officially a rebel now and a marked man!

Mughal Emperors
Shahjehan or Khurram.Image courtesy; Wikipedia

There were very few places that Khurram could go to and live peacefully in and Udaipur was one of them.So, with his wife and two young kids in tow, he landed in Udaipur.

Interestingly, till a few years back,the Mughals and Udaipur were the bitterest of enemies.Khurram ,in one of his campaigns had defeated Udaipur but impressed by his amiable nature, the Rana of Udaipur bore no ill will towards Khurram.So, when the rebellious Mughal Prince landed in Udaipur, the Rana welcomed him warmly and lodged him in the City Palace.The name of the Rana was Karna Singh.This Palace has been the official residence of the Ranas of Udaipur for the past 450 years and, naturally, the Rana expected his guests to observe the local customs.But, the young Mughal Prince probably disregarded the behaviour expected of him and so, after a few days, was gently requested to shift to another palace.

Ranas of Mewar
Karna Singh.Image courtesy;Eternal Mewar

This palace, located on an island in a lake, is called Jagmandir Palace.

Jagmandir was still incomplete when Khurram visited it.The construction of this hauntingly beautiful palace was started by Amar Singh, father of Karna.The idea was to have a luxurious palace on an island to serve the king and his family.

We now come back to the story of Khurram .He stayed happily in Udaipur for a few years with his wife and two sons.Turbans were exchanged between him and his host, the Rana of Udaipur. And, when Jahangir died in 1626, Khurram ascended the throne.Naturally,the new Mughal Emperor regarded Udaipur as his friend and this was an opportunity to the Rana to endow Udaipur with some of the best palaces ever built in the world.

Karna Singh did not live long.He was succeeded by his son Jagat Singh who lent his name to the island palace that we now know as Jagmandir.

Ranas of Mewar
Jagat Singh lent his name to the island palace Image courtesy;Eternal Mewar

Friends, do you know the other name of Khurram? Yes, it is Shahjehan and his wife who accompanied him to Udaipur was Mumtaz Mahal.The names of the two kids with him are Dara Shukoh and Aurangzeb.

Yes,the Shahjehan who built Taj Mahal was once a fugitive in Udaipur.

But,what about Dara and Aurangzeb?Well, one of them was executed by another in the eternal quest for throne.

This palace, Jagmandir is run as a hotel by the erstwhile royal dynasty of Udaipur. jag-mandir-udaipur1

 

 

What do you think about this post, friends?

 

Thanks for reading this and dropping by.

 

 

India’s hauntingly beautiful past and present;soldiers turned ironsmiths-What is the story?

The proud octagenarian, sporting a handlebar moustache, looked at me curiously as I made way to his cot, hoping to make some conversation with him about his community- the Gadia Lohars.and I wanted to know their history from him.

.India has a large number of wandering tribes but, unlike in most other countries, these tribes are still well connected with the society at large.

The Gadia Lohars inspire awe among people who know about their past.And very few people are aware about their mysterious past.

gadia

The Gadia Lohars are spread thinly in the north -western states of India like Rajasthan , Punjab and Haryana.They are basically ironsmiths , crafting iron implements like ploughs, chisels, spades  and other articles.A bullock driven carriage is an essential part of their community which also serves as their house.Modern dressing is alien to them and the Lohars still stick to their centuries old apparel.Essentially, the Lohars are still clinging to their past, they are frozen in time.

gadia1

The term Gadia means carriage and Lohar refers to ironsmith- ironsmiths that live in carriages.

Have the Lohars been ironsmiths for a long time? I don’t know.Popular legends say they they were soldiers in the army of Maharana Pratap and used to live around the fort of Chittorgarh.Having lost Chittorgarh to Akbar, the soldiers made a terrible promise to themselves- never would they sleep on beds and live in stone houses till the fort was won back by the Rajputs!In short, they vowed a life of a gypsy till Chittorgarh was won back.

The fort of Chittorgarh could never be taken back by successive Rajput kings and the vow has continued till today as technically, the fort is still not under the control of the Rajputs! Isn’t it an amazing story?

The Gadia Lohars are fiercely independent and unlike many other tribes like Bedias, have refused to neither beg nor get into vice.They keep to themselves and never go the wrong side of the law.

After India got independent, the first Prime Minister the country,Jawaharlal Nehru tried his utmost to rehabilitate the Gadia Lohars.After all, Chittorgarh was now part of independent India! However, they have continued with the vow that their ancestors made, centuries ago!

Thanks for stopping by and reading this post.

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Incredible India! Khajuraho’s cousin- Vijayraghavgarh Fort

Dear travellers,

This post is about an offbeat destination that is close to my heart.I am talking about Vijayraghavgarh, my ancestral village in Madhya Pradesh.

My father was born in this village and grew up here.It has been several, several years that I have visited this place.When, I was a kid, I was taken to my village by my father and taken around it.There is a fort too that I had visited and I want to share some images of it.

This fort was constructed in the middle of the 19th century by Raja Prayag Das. His son, Saryu participated in India’s First War of Independence and was later executed by The British.

The history of this fort is extremely sketchy and short and so is my post.Kindly excuse me for this , my friends.

Thanks for dropping by and reading this post.!

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Forts of Madhya Pradesh
Witness to the First War of Independence

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Forts of Madhya Pradesh
Frozen in time
Ancient Forts

Jaipur-Untold Secrets;Amazing Destinations of India;What is the Story

Does Jaigarh hold an immense quantity of treasure?Well, there are rumours and there is a story behind them.Read on!

Dear Traveller,

Coming from Delhi,as you head into the municipal limits of Jaipur, the massive ramparts of Jaigarh loom to your right.And if there is a clear day, you can also notice the outlines of a massive gun perched on those walls.The name of the gun is Jaibana or Jaivana and is supposed to be the biggest gun of its times in Asia.

Ancient Guns
Jaivana or Jaibana.Image Courtesy; Rajasthan Tourism

Welcome to Jaipur and  its hauntingly beautiful tales.

The Jaigarh fort was rebuilt around 350 years ago by its king to defend it against the potential invaders. Luckily, Jaigarh never had to face enemies.But, the fort became the center of a controversy in the middle of 1970s .

Forts of India
Bastions of Jaigarh-image courtesy; Rajasthan Tourism

You see, Amer or Amber was ruled by extremely powerful Rajput kings who were friendly with the Mughal emperors. Amber was the name of the kingdom of which  Jaigarh was the principal fort.The most important king of Amber was Raja Mansingh and he was also the  brother in law of Akbar, the Mughal Emperor.

Rajput Kings
Raja Mansingh- the Commander of the Mughal Forces.Also, the brother in law of Akbar.Image courtesy-Met Museum

Mansingh was the commander of the Mughal armies and of course, he went on several military expeditions for his master. And, yes, he also accumulated a lot of wealth because of the loots.

Now, where did Mansingh hide the loot?What is the mystery of Jaigarh?

Good questions, but a difficult answer.

Long after that he was gone, during 1975, when India was governed by the Congress party, there was a strong rumour that his treasure had finally been unearthed! There were rumours that truckloads of gold and silver had been carted away by the government in trucks! The place where the gold and silver was “hidden ” were the water tanks in the fort!

You may like to see this video on this “rumour” http://indiatoday.intoday.in/video/hunt-for-gold-indira-gandhi-army-jaipur-rajmata-gayatri-devi/1/316981.html

And , this link may also be read http://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/history-and-culture/chequered-past/article37987.ece

Water Bodies
The “lake” in Jaigarh;Image Courtesy;Rajasthan Tourism

Newspaper reports quoted of nearly 350 kilograms of gold, silver and diamonds being recovered!This rumour persisted for nearly 2 years .Even today, the most important question in the mind of a traveller is “what is the truth behind the Jaigarh treasures?”

These rumours refuse to die away because there is no definite answer about their veracity.

When I visited the fort in 1992, I posed the same question to a very senior official of the fort.I shall not name the person as the fort of Jaigarh is the private property of the erstwhile royal family of Jaipur.

I wasn’t surprised when she did not give a categorical reply to my question.

The mystery lingers...

What do you think, my friends about this controversy?Please write back to me.

Thanks for reading this post.

India Travel Blogs

What is the story of the haunted village of Kuldhara?

What is the story behind the abandoned village of Kuldhara?India is never short of its secrets.Welcome to India.

India Travel Blogs

 

I visited this village several years ago, while I was living in Jaipur, the principal city of Rajasthan.If I remember correctly, I was a teenager and had accompanied my dad to this village.He was a government officer and had the privilege of touring interesting places of India.



Kuldhara seemed to me an uninteresting place, full of stones and abandoned houses and not a soul in sight.Even, the birds were a rarity.There were no pigeons and of course, sparrows were nowhere to be found.In short, it seemed a deserted place- deserted by man and animal alike.

I asked the locals about Kuldhara and stumbled upon an interesting story.I don’t believe it but it still is an interesting one .So here goes…

 

It so happened that a couple of hundred ago, the village was very much alive.There were happy people who lived in Kuldhara.There were kids, young men and their women folk and their were the elders.In short, the village was one happy place.

But, there were also kings at that time and some of them were wicked.And one of them was particularly wicked.

One day, this king saw a beautiful girl of the village.Overcome by lust, the king ordered the villagers to handover the girl to him.Obviously, the villagers refused and the king promised revenge.Overcome by a fear of things to come, the villagers held council one night and decided to desert the village immediately.

Next morning, when the king’s men reached the village of Kuldhara, they found no one.Absolutely no one!

Kuldhara3

 

And, this is the story of Kuldhara.

 

Amazing Destinations of India- Hauntingly BeautifulRoopkund, a lake of skeletons

Presenting to you a yet another hauntingly beautiful destination-Roopkund, a lake of skeletons

What is the mystery of Roopkund?

In the Indian State of Uttarakhand is an ancient lake that has been holding a mystery for the past 1300 years.The mystery I am referring to is one about skeletons in the lake, and there are more than 100 of them.

This lake is called Roopkund and is one of the offbeat destinations in India.

These skeletons were first discovered nearly 80 years ago by a Nanda Devi game reserve official and these lay immersed in a lake that was no more than 2 metres in depth.Subsequently, carbon dating tests revealed that the skeletons were more than 1300 years old.

Who do the skeletons belong to?

Hmm, interesting question but, lots of guesses and no definitive answers are available.One theory suggests that most the skeletons belong to people of Iranian descent and the remaining belonging to a shorter set of people.The second theory suggests that the group of skeletons belongs to Chitpavan brahmins of Goa.The locals however, believe that many years back, a king of an Indian kingdom with his wife was making a pilgrimage to some place in the Himalayas when he got lost.The bitter cold and blizzards probably killed the team of the king. Since, the king was accompanied by porters who were locals, so it is guessed that the shorter skeletons belong to them.

You may also read http://natgeotv.com/asia/riddles-of-the-dead/about. National Geographic Channel had investigated these skeletons in one of its programmes a few years back.

Also, you may be interested in this link as well http://www.thehindu.com/2004/06/29/stories/2004062905461200.htm where one of the leading newspapers of India, The Hindu reported a scientific investigation on the skeletons.

Whatever be the truth, Roopkund today has become an offbeat travel destination for Indian travellers.It is fast becoming a prominent centre of Uttarakhand tourism.There are some trekking groups that conduct treks to this destination and if you are interested in joining one of them, do contact me.I will be happy to help you out.

 

Thanks for dropping by and reading this post.

 

 

Monuments of India

Humayun’s Tomb-Amazing Destinations of India;What is the Story?

One of the most beautiful buildings of the world hides a sordid past.Presenting the hauntingly beautiful story of Humayun’s Tomb.

 

Delhi has one of the most beautiful travel destinations of the world but, do you know, it hides a sordid past-a past that would horrify you.Read one..

Humayun’s Tomb is a World Heritage Site and is home to the grave of one of the earlier Mughal Emperors. He had  a chequered history and could not settle in the throne.Buffeted by armed rebellion in his territories, he was constantly on the run.And, one fine day, he fell down the stairs of his library and passed away. His manner of death resembled the pattern of his life-uncertain and wavering.The building that housed the library still exists in an old fort in Delhi, The Purana Qila.

Sher mandal, Purana Qila
Sher Mandal- The Library of Humayun

His grieving wife built a mausoleum for him in Delhi and is located south of the Purana Qila.This mausoleum is called Humayun’s Tomb and its design is quite similar to that of Taj Mahal.

I am sharing with you some Humayun’s Tomb images, hope you like them.

Humayun's Tomb-Palace of the Dead
Humayun’s Tomb-Palace of the Dead

Humayun would not have imagined that his tomb would hide so many secrets of so many deaths of members of his family.His tomb has graves of not less than 100 members of his family and some of them indicate that even infants have been buried there.

You may also read http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/232

But, there was one unfortunate prince of Mughals who died a premature death and is ‘apparently” buried there.I say ‘apparently’ because, nothing definite can be said about his burial there.His name was Dara and he was the son of Shahjehan, the maker of Taj Mahal.

Dara_Shukoh
The unfortunate prince-Dara Shikoh (courtesy-Wikipedia)

Shahjehan had 4 sons of whom Dara was the eldest.But, Dara had a running feud with his youngest brother , Aurangzeb.And , the cause was the Mughal throne.A fierce battle ensued and Dara lost the battle.He was taken prisoner by Aurangzeb and taken around Delhi on the bare back of an elephant.Insults were heaped at Dara and finally, he was despatched to a prison by his victorious brother.

What mystery does this grave hold?
What mystery does this grave hold?

Dara was forced to consume opium by his captors-as was the custom in that day and age- so that the prisoner became senseless and oblivious to his surroundings.One fine day, the unfortunate Dara was beheaded by the hired assassins of his brother.Poor guy Dara..

He was “supposedly’ taken to Humayun’s Tomb and buried there.But, historians are not sure whether Aurangzeb permitted this place for the burial of his brother.He was bitter towards the now dead Dara and perhaps wanted him to be moved far far away from his capital to prevent unrest.

A peek into the tomb of Humayun
A peek into the tomb of Humayun

This event happened around 350 years ago.

Cut to 1857, when India was ablaze with war cries against the British for independence.The Mughal Emperor at that time was the old Bahadur Shah Zafar.The rebels considered him to be their figurative head and he was their rallying point.He had at least two sons who were quite headstrong.

These young princes , during the siege of Delhi by the rebels in 1857, had committed terrible acts against the unarmed British women and children and were on the radar of the British soldiers.As things happened, the British forces reoccupied the city of Delhi and spread far and wide to capture the Mughal princes.Of course, the princes were no where to be found.

Rare pics of Bahadur Shah's sons
Rare pics of Bahadur Shah’s sons

Some one informed the British that the princes- Mirza Mughal and Mirza Khizr- were hiding inside the Humayun;s Tomb.Well, without wasting a minute a British contingent rushed to the Tomb and surrounded it. After a siege of a few days, the furtive princes were ferreted out and were promptly arrested.The two Mirzas were marched toward Old Delhi and as the party approached a notorious gate, Khooni Darwaza, in Central Delhi, the princes were shot dead in cold blood by the British commander.

Also read https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirza_Mughal

The stories are many but, I have little time to relate all those about Humayun’s Tomb.But, next time when you visit this building, do remember its gory past.

Same building, different colours, different angle
Same building, different colours, different angle

 

Reaching Humayun’s Tomb is easy- the nearest Metro Station is at Jorbagh from where one can take an auto rickshaw or a cab.

The timings for the Tomb start from 7 am to 6 pm in the evenings.

Thank you for reading it.