Jai Vilas Mahal Gwalior

Right from 1857 when the Gwalior fortress was used to house the prisoners and revolters against the British empire in India. The British did not hand over the Gwalior fort to the Scindias completely which obviously made their life miserable in seeking a comfortable and stable residence. Jayaji Rao Scindia ensured that a fine palace with European architecture was built in 1874. The chief architect was Sir Michael Filose who combined Italian, Tuscan and Cornithan styles of architecture.
The palace consists of a rectangular premises with building on all four sides and a landscaped garden along with fountain in the middle. The total area covered by the palace is over 1.25 lakh square feet. The highlights of the palace are huge Darbar Hall with two huge chandeliers fitted with 250 bulbs which is supposed to largest pair in the world. It weighed almost 3.5 tons.

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A number of bedrooms which are inter-connected from Kings to queen chamber is also another highlight of the palace. A separate indoor swimming pool with jumping pedestal too is found inside the palace. A fine dining hall which could probably seat 60 persons in one row is another highlight and there are 3 rows of seating arrangement inside the hall.
There are plenty of collections of arms in the form of guns in different shapes, cutleries, tableware, palanquins, horse carriages, trophies etc. Also one can find stuffed dummies of leopard, elephant and deers. There are plenty of photographs of the last incumbent Madhav Rao Scindia with his cricketing gear photographs etc. A library stacked with plenty of books too is attached.

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A model of the train made out of silver transporting wine and cigarettes during party is also a highlight. Another naked women statue made out in marble with a swan over her is another highlight of the collections.
One portion of the palace is used as an exhibition hall selling various handicrafts and artefacts. Another palace Usha Kiran is leased out to Taj group of hotels. This is a 40 bedroom property laid out on a 9 acre landscaped land. It still carries the rich tradition of hosting visitors and it is supposed to have been built in 1880 and later expanded to accommodate Prince of Wales and his Ent rouge in 1902.

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A replica of the spa at Man mandir palace is found in this star property. Since it is maintained by Taj Group a high standard of royalty and it s luxurious feel is maintained. It has served as host to myriad dignitaries who have visited India.

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Overall a visit to Jai Vilas Mahal gives visitor an idea of the grandeur of Palace and one has to imagine whether Gwalior fort too displayed such a magnificent atmosphere. This is a ticketed monument and one has to shell out Rs 100 each for entry and Rs 100 for photography. One has to deposit extra mobile and purses at the locker room before making an entry. Even mobile phones are ticketed. One can easily spend more than hour at this palace browsing at the lavish style of living of the Scindias.

Jain rock cut temples Gwalior

The valley leading to Gwalior fort is filled with Jaina sculptures and chambers on both sides of the road. They are basically sculptures of the thirtankaras of Jain lineage. They can be divided into 5 groups. Urwahi, South Western, North Western, North Eastern & South Eastern.
The largest of all statues is 57 feet high which probably represents Adinath or Parsavnath. Another 42 feet Idol is in Padmashana pose which belongs to Parsavanath.
The third statue is 30 feet high which represents Neminatha who is the 22nd theertankara. Some have wrongly guazged the height of the statue as 58 feet which is equavalent to Bahubali statue at Shravanabelagola.
We can find statue of Vardhamana Mahavira the last of the theertankaras in the south western portion. There are sculptures of seated male, female and child representing Siddharth, his wife Trishala and Mahavir. In all there are 22 temples of Jaina origin and 1500 statues of Jain Theertankaras.

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These Jaina sculptures seem to have been extension of the images from Gupta period, and there was intense activity to secure this place for Jain heritage between 1440 and 1480 AD under the reign of Dungarendra Singh and Kirtisingh.
When Babur visited the place in 1527 he ordered mutilation of the Penis for its blatant nudity and immoral depiction. Probably later a screen type wedge was placed to hide the nudity or suggestion of cover-up. Nudity might have agitated Babur but for the Jains it was a symbol of relinquishment of materialistic world. It was a complete renounciation or sanyasa. A man who has no possession is free and fearless. Therefore he is architect or master of his own fortune and salvation.
The numerous miniature image of Jain Theertankaras points to older lineage which may have been in existence from the Gupta period and some of the statues are in state of utter neglect and need urgent maintainence. Luckily a guard is posted to protect the monuments through day and night otherwise it can be easily vandalized.
The visit to the Jain group of caves was really enlightening particularly if there is no overcrowding of the place and one can peacefully observe the various sculptures in peace. Some the sculptures are half finished or incomplete which points to a fact that there was mortal danger in continuing the work or sponsorship had stopped. However the legacy of the Jains are well established in these rock cut sculptures at Gwalior.

Glorious Gwalior Fort

A sketchy and incoherent picture emerges in the history of the Gwalior fort. It seems to have existed from the time of Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka. The incriptions in Brahmi script found near Datia wherein a tribal chief Damvuka owes his allegience to the emperor. Later the Sungas held sway over the terrain.
The earliest record of the fortress emerges from an inscription in the collapsed Sun temple raised by a Huna king Mihirakula in 525 AD. Later the Tomars took possession of the fortress. Teli Ka Mandir was built by Gurjara-Pratihara kings.
In 1022 AD Mahmud Ghazni attacked the fortress and took control of it. He agreed to lift the seize for a ransom of 35 elephants in return. In 1196 Qutub ud din Aibak laid seize of the fort and reigned till it was captured by Altamush in 1232.
In 1398 the fort came under the control of the Tomars whose distinguished ruler was Maan Singh who constructed many of the existing palaces and monuments. Ibrahim Lodhi captured the fortress in 1516 resulting in the death of Maan Singh.
Mughals controlled the fortress thereafter with Babur, Akbar and Aurangazeb in sequence. Akbar literally converted the place into a prison and he executed his cousin Kamran for rebellion. Aurangazeb too got rid of his brothers and nephew in the Man Mandir palace. After the demise of Aurangazeb the fort was captured by Scindia’s. It later fell into the hands of the British in 1780. Warren Hastings handed over the fort to the Ranas who in turn lost it to the Marathas. The ownership of the fort was shifting between the Scindia’s and British till the sepoy mutiny in 1857. The British once again took possession of the fort in 1858 and handed over rest of the territory to Scindia’s. The Scindia’s continued to rule till Independence.
The fort is built on a rocky hillock named Gopachal. It has an elongated structure spreading over 2.4 kms length wise. A small river Swarnalekha flows in the ravines. The fortress has two gateways and 6 watch towers. The main gateway which is located on the north west is known as Hathi Pul or Elephant Gate. The other gateway is located on the south west corner which is known as Badalgarh. There are two water tanks or reservoir which provided drinking water to the residents of the fort.

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Man Mandir Palace : This palace was built by Raja Maan Singh ( 1486-1516 ) for his favourite queen Mrignayani. The palace looks like a painted one due to usage of blue, green and yellow tiles in a geometric fashion. Currently it is used as a museum housing various artefacts belonging the Scindia rule.
Man mandir is a magnificent edifice which seems to be jutting out of the rocky terrain below. Emperor Babur enjoyed his stay in 1528 when he visited this palace. He was impressed with architecture of the massive palace which had painted images of crocodiles, swans, lions, elephants and plantain leaves. He was lavish in praise of the construction of this magnificent palace. The main gate for the entrance to this palace is the Hathi pole or elephant gate.
Man-mandir consists of two portions, one was used as residential palace for the royalty and the other accommodation were for the attendants. The main palace consists of two storeys. There were two underground storeys too. There is a dancing hall for entertaining the royalty. And palace is surrounded by balconies on all sides.
Ventilation was taken care by jalis which had circular and square holes. Subdued light and air used to filter into the rooms which was adequate for Babur. Naryandas describes the arrangement :

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Koi Bhonharen An An Bhanti, Tinamahin Jati Andhiyari Rati. ( Many Subterranean chambers were Built. These would remain eternally dark like the night )
There were some ante-chambers built which would remain dark like the night. Below this room was Kesar Kund which acted as a circular reservoir and may have been used as fountain too. There were huge pillars with swings and its description is as follows :
Bane Hindore Kanchan Khamba,
Manahu Upaje Ukati Sayambha.
( There were pillars of gold, hung with swings, as beautiful as Oracles, born of themselves )
Thus Man Mandir is filled with variety of designs of pillars, pilasters, arches, brackets, screen work, roofs and ceilings designed in a unique fashion. Man mandir was once fully built with glazed inlay work on the facade.
Man mandir was also known as Shish Mahal or Chitra Mahal because of the elaborate wall paintings. It is eloquently described by Khargrai in his Gopachal Akyan :
Mandir Eka Karayo Man,
Nam Man Mandir Tihijan,
Mano Idra Bhupa Kau Dham,
Kahoon Na Mandir Tahi Saman.
( King Man Singh built a palace name Man Mandir, it is as fascinating as the house of Indra, without any parallel or peer )
Even in the ruined condition this unique palace seems majestic with its domes all around the terrace, with magnificent towers at the edges, open balconies and colorful façade displaying the grandeur of conception. When the morning sun rays fall on the monument it looks as if a huge vulture is about to take off from the rugged hills.

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Gujri Mahal Museum : This palace was used for privacy of the queen Mrignayani. It had a permanent source of water through an aqueduct sourced through the river. Currently it houses the ASI museum with sculptures of Jain and Hindu gods. The replica of frescos from Bagh caves can also be seen here.
Its design and ornamental details were distinct from Man Mandir. It was a large two storeyed palace with crown angles . The facade were inlaid with painted tiles and geometric patterns. The terraces were crowned with smaller projecting domes and it was used as favourite lounge by queen. The palace had siderooms, pavilions in the centre and pillars and lentils were imposing.

Vikram Mahal : This palace is built by Vikramaditya Singh. The size of the palace is measured as 212 x 36 feet. An open hall contains 12 doors or archways and supported by 8 carved ribs. The walls are 4 and 1/2 feet thick and doorways are 6 and 3/4 feet with a height of 7 feet.
There were secret passage which were designed inside the Vikram Mahal which could not be seen or discovered. Babur admired this feature but lamented that both the subsidiary palaces did not match the grandeur of Man Mandir.

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Karan Mahal : This mahal is also known as Kirti Mahal or the palace of Raja Kirtisingh, who is referred to as Rai Karan by the moghul authors. The building is double storeyed with one large room, and two smaller rooms on either side. The total palace is measured 200×35 beet.
Inside the Kirti Mahal a Hamam complex is located. On the second floor there is a water channel and the terrace is filled with dome structures. The emblem of two Elephant trying to nibble at baniyan tree leaves is prominent and conveys hidden meaning to the visitors. The baniyan tree represents glory and majestic presence of King Kirtisingh. The elephants convey enemies of the kingdom always trying to threaten the kingdom, in particular the Sultans of Delhi.

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The palace of Vikram Singh is connected to Karan Mahal by secret galleries hidden inside the wall. The original structure seems to have been modified by Shah jahan and other moghuls who occupied the palace.

A visit to Gwalior fort gives a feeling that everything contained inside the palaces and monument has been stripped clean leaving behind the shell.  The architecture apart from Man mandir palace is very basic and unimpressive in the present state of preservation. The scribbling and writings on the palace walls is so sickening that it leaves bad impression on the minds of the visitors.  Hopefully all these will be erased in renovation plan.  Probably majority of the antiques and collection have been shifted to the Jai palace of Scindia’s located in the township below the hill.  Currently Man mandir is maintained by ASI and other monuments are maintained by state archaeology department, so one has to buy two separate tickets.  A sound and light show is conducted in the evening on the portico of Man Mandir palace.

Ack : Photo Abhishek Diwedi, ASI publication on Gwalior Fort,

Kamasutra Climaxes @ Khajuraho

Many historians are still to offer explaination or the mystery behind depiction of gross sexual images on the facade of temples or places of worship of hindu gods. If one surveys the landscape and dwells into the history Jains and Buddhism seemed to have marched ahead of Hinduism during first century upto 6th century with famed reign of Asoka, Kanishka and Gupta’s who sponsored them liberally. Huge statues of Jain thirtankaras and Buddha was installed all over the country. Hindus had just come up with a counter of installing Lingas which was a feeble attempt to retain faith among the common folks. The symbol of phallus worship was only another extention of nature worship in the form of stone.
Jains offered non violence and self control in their religion, Buddhist offered the middle path in leading one’s life. Hindu religion was threatened because of the impressive monuments and symbolism of Jains and Buddhist. And they had to counter to retain their identity. Thus was born Brahma, Vishnu & Shiva generally termed as  Generator, Operator & Destroyer.  GOD in short form.
The naked image of Thirtankaras offered an visual effect of relinquishing materialistic things and desires, Stupas and Viharas along with frescos offered a different attraction and angle to the common folks leading them to middle path. Thus was born the idea of Kamasutra to retain the interest of the common man and stick to his core religion (Hinduism ). Vatsayanan proposed the sexual fitness theory with 69 postures along with showing restraints. The taboo of inhibited or miniature sexual images from the days of Ajanta and Aihole was given a free lease of life. The artisans under the guidance and sponsorship of the royalty went on imagination galore to produce the wonderful sculpture in form Khajuraho sexual images. They obviously were guided by some yogic sex expert, who knows it may been Vatsayanan himself or one of his disciples. Some the sexual postures definitely requires man to be extremely fit along with his partner.

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The second premise is that the Vatsayanan of Kamasutra was the guiding factor behind the exposition of erotic architecture of the temple. The entire region of Khajuraho and Bundelkhand was known as Vatsa region. It is sad that majority of the religions perceive sex as satanical desire. But Vatsayanan and Freud have exploded this myth during their times.
The third assumption for the depiction of erotic sculpture is to spread the knowledge of sex education amongst the royalty and public in a brazen manner along with worshipping the god and goddesses. Human life is divided into three stages Kama ( Sexual desire ) Artha ( Materialistic ) & Dharma ( Virtuous life ).

Other explanations offered are :
Chandelas were followers of Tantric Cult. They believed in attainment of moksha through sexual pleasures. The goal of Tantric sex is to experience the inner meaning of our body and soul. The idea is to enrich the sexual experience rather than only attaining orgasm.
Some experts during ancient times believed that Kama offered natural protection against lightening and rain. The message seems to have been picked up well by ASI now that they have installed lightening conductors on the façade.
Some scholars believed that the erotic sculptures were a direct inspiration from Kamasutra

 
Prologue : When I visited  Khajuraho as a bachelor after finishing our market work in 1987 alongwith my colleague Somasunderam. He uttered ” Che Poh ” in tamil in astonishment. You really brought me here to witness this atrocious sculptures depicting sex. And than in the night he started discussing how could they have done it. That was the typical attitude of general public after it was demonized and declared heretic by the British after the re discovery of Khajuraho in 1830 guided by local folks by T.S. Burt. Alexander Cunningham acknowledges Khajuraho monuments were secretly occupied by the Agori babas ( naked saints ) and Shivarathri was celebrated every year with assemblage of crowd from nearby villages.

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Our history professor Rao with his booming voice uttered once famously in our classroom in 1977 that Sex is the cheapest and greatest form of entertainment for majority of Indians. Probably it is one of the binding factor for the success of family life in India when compared to westerners. Hats off to our professor who opened our eyes in descrbing the erotic architecture of Aihole which is considered to be school of Indian Architecture.
Never in the history of fine arts in India, has the dexetrous hands sculpted such fine specimen of erotic figures on stone, which can be replicated. Kudos to the artisans of time who have remained largely anonymous to the world.
Khajuraho group of monuments are grouped into basically three divisions Western, Eastern and Southern. Out of the 85 temples only 25 temples have survived today. They have been declared a world heritage site.
Western Group of Temples :
1. Matangeswar temple : SHIVA ( 900-925 AD ) : According to epics saint Matanga adorned the Linga form who seemed to have controlled the goddess of Love. This temple is located outside the complex and it is the only temple where the worshipping of Linga is allowed. Devotees throng them during Shivaratri festival wherein the Lingam is decked up like a bridegroom about to be married.

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2. Lakshmana Temple : VAIKUNTA VISHNU ( 930-950 ) This temple seems to have been built by Yashovarman according to an incription slab excavated dating back to 953 AD. It is one of the best preserved temple in the complex with its plaform intact. This temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu with four other small shrines surrounding the main temple. The shrine displays the image of Vishnu with 3 headed avatar and four arms forms the sanctum. The pillars are decorated with Apsaras in various style and fully decked up. The central panel is decorated with various forms of Vishnu. The lentil and facades depict Krishna subjugating the serpant Kaliya along with goddess Lakshmi. One panel on outside depicts the slaying of demon Hiranayakaspu by Narasimha avatar of Vishnu. Another sculpture of Lord Ganesha with four arms and tusk with a dancing format is beautifully embedded on the facade.
A couple is displayed in a standing and locked love making posture which beats the imagination of the onlooker for its sheer execution in stone. One is left to wonder whether the man is in squatting & locked posture or the women. Some of the other panels displaying a blow job and kissing couple in various formats of foreplay is embedded.

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3. Kandariya Mahadev Temple : SHIVA ( 1003-1035 ) This is the largest temple in the western group of temples. The credit for building this magnificent edifice goes to Chandela king Vidhadhara. This temple is built in the form of four shikaras or spires. It has a hexagonal platform and consists of two other temples. The temple is literally guarded by dragon and damsel in a ritualistic posture on its two sides.
The iconic sexual fantasy of a male lying upside down having intercourse with three females at a time, with one female mounted and locked with the support of two standing females, who in turn is being masturbated by man with his hands on both sides. This is probably the most yogic style of having an inter course with dexterity and agility beyond imagination. ( Original quote )

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It is left to the onlookers imagination to interpret whether the three panels depict the starting of love making sequence to its culmination from top to bottom panel. If one has a closer look at the panels one can see all the players are well decked up in jewelry and hair dressings. It is almost as if a prince or a royalty is exhibiting his sexual prowess and fitness with his partners.
This temple complex was raided twice by Mahmud Ghazi in search of treasures and destruction of idolatry. Once in 1019 and second time in 1022 AD. Truce was bought a hefty price by the Dhangadeva and this temple was dedicated to his family deity lord Shiva. Epigraphic evidence points out to a fact that this temple’s architect is Virimda. The dateline streches beyond 1029 upto 1050 considering its size and gigantic proportions.
The penetration of natural light is very limited despite its frontal balconies. Probably for this reason it is known as the cave temple. The sanctum is like a womb chamber of Parvathi the consort of lord Shiva. The temple is built like a spiral vertical structure with facade of the temple adorned with images of Ganesha, Veerabhadra, Bramha, Varaha and Narasimha.

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4. Viswanatha Temple : Shiva ( 999 AD ) : The construction of this temple is credited to Dhangadeva ( 950-999 ) The architects of the temple are Chichha and Vishwakarma. The temple is built in Nagara style. This temple is almost constructed in similar style of Kandariya temple except for the additional gopuram by its side.
The facade of the temple is embedded with sculptures of Ganesha, Apsaras, Varaha, Shiva-Parvathi and couples in romantic liason. The sanctum sanctorium contains the image of Linga.
The coyness depicted by a women when couples are having sex is a natural defensive nature of a shy lady. The embracing couple intercourse with two other females on standby mode is a unique combination with bystanders watching the entire action unfolding.
Some of the images depict a women plucking a thorn, combing her hair and playing flute instrument. Some of the erotic sculptures are hidden between the joints of the structure. A women interlocked on the lap of a man is the highlight of the erotic depiction. They are assisted by two women on either side.
The Colonial British arts administrator Earnest Havel termed it as product of decadent phase of Hinduism. However the contrarian view it is the artistic exposure of Kamasutra of a broad minded society. Another theory suggested that only those who resisted sexual temptation can attain salvation. Some believed that these erotic sculptures protected the edifice from evil eye. Another Professor that these erotic sculptures symbolized fertility and procreation extension of the genes or family tree.
5. Chitragupta Temple : Surya ( Sun God ) : ( 1020-1025 ) : This temple is dedicated to the sun goddess. The impressive image of the lord standing in horse drawn chariot is the main image on sanctum.
This edifice contains images of 11 headed Vishnu displaying all his avatars on the southern side. There are number of images of couples in erotic and loving posture. Brahma and his consort are seen in embracing posture.

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Inorder to construct majority of the temples at the Khajuraho a fine grade of sandstone has been used. The stones had different shades of pink and hues of pale yellow. They were chiselled from the quarries located at Panna and transported to Khajuraho. Some of the foundation was laid with granite blocks.
Other temples located in the Western group are Devi Jagadambi temple, Varaha temple Avatar of Vishnu (900-925 ), Parvathi Temple, Nandi Temple, Bramha temple, Vamana temple (1050-1075 ) and few other smaller shrines.
Eastern Group of Temples or Jain group :
These group of temples have almost been subject to massive changes with yellow white wash or painting. The entire heritage structure seems to have been discarded with only two temples maintained in its originality. Jain group of temples have obviously suffered a massive destruction by the invaders, due to their blantant nakedness and prominent idolatory.
The jain group of temples are named after their theertankaras Parsvanath, Shantinath, Adinath, Mahavir etc. The digambar sect of jains have their ashram as well as temple where the prayers are conducted in a routine manner.
Southern Group of Temples :
Duladeo : Shiva : 1125 AD : Dulhadeo means Holy Bridegroom. This is one of the last temple built during the Chandela reign. It is laid with a Chariot plan with a limited erotic panel display of Apsaras. This temple has been beautifully renovated by ASI to its original condition. The restored portion of the temple is visible with shades of granite being different from older ones.
The outer wall panels has sculptures of Varaha and other avatars of Vishnu along with Shiva in a seated posture along with snake and other embellishments.

Vatsayanana ultimately ends his treatise in a humourous way ” Nowhere is as poorly guarded as a harem, and no women are more accessible than the wives of the King. An enterprising and pleasure seeking young man can choose any number of ways to get inside. Hidden in a barrel or in disguise of a maid, he can easily sneak past lazy guards who are over worked and tired. Another distinct possibility is to partake a magic potion that will make him invisible …..” Quote from Deepak Chopra’s rendition of Kamasutra.
Chaturbhu Temple : Vishnu 1100 AD : This temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu with four arms and it is the only temple which does not contain any erotic sculptures. The construction of this temple is credited to Yashovarman of Chandela dynasty.
Excavated Temple : Enroute to Chaturbhuja temple there is an excavation under progress by ASI. One can witness the crumbled structure from a distance. There is a deviation from the main road with a signage indicating the direction of the excavated temple.

Titbits :
The Chandelas claim a lunar lineage and as the legend goes One full moon night, Hemavathi a 16 year old widow was bathing in a pond filled with Lotus. The Moon god was attracted towards her beauty. He descended in the form of a handsome youth and seduced her, to beget a son named Chandratreya. He began the Chandela dynasty. His legendary act of fighting a Lion with his bare hands became a symbol of the dynasty. Thus on one full moon night honeymoon occured and thus was born the lineage of Khajuraho.
An image of an Apsara disrobing herself to get rid of a scorpion, is another metaphor, the scorpion is compared to lust. The word Khajura means scorpion in Sanskrit. It also symbolises date in the colloquial language Khajur. So dating and mating is what Khajuraho all about ?
Another image points to sages or acharyas instructing the sculptors with devadasis or courtesans standing besides them. They were probably imparting their advice to the sculptors and masons as to where to embed the erotic motifs.

 

Overall a trip to Khajuraho is revealing and fulfilling in terms of quest for knowledge and heritage. Let us not bow down or shy away from the fact that our country has offered Kamasutra as a treatise to the world. It contains a comprehensive manual for art of lovemaking with 69 odd postures, martial discourse and guideline for an art of family life. It would always be debated among private circles as a sex scandal, rebellion against conservatism or promotion of a broad minded religion. `Indians can always be proud of invention of Zero, Mining of best Diamonds and Treatise known as Kamasutra.  Khajuraho epitomizes Kamasutra in its ultimate Avatar.

Acknowledgement & References :  Wikipedia, Deepak Chopra’s Kamasutra, History of Fine Arts by Edith Tomory ,  India today and includes original interpretation.

 

Magical & Mysterious Mandu

Prologue

When our driver cum guide Munna bhai received us Mandu it was almost magical, he offered us to guide us with his knowledge & escort us on his old maruti 800. We never asked him to guide but he voluntarily came across to guide us with the knowledge of history, romance and mystery. He practically demonstrated the effect of a singing competition between Roopmati and Baz Bahadur inside the palace. Munna bhai began to sing an old melodious number of Mukesh, than my wife sang another old bollywood track and i wound up singing yeh dosti hum nahi chodege from Sholay film. Did Buz Bahadur marry Roopmati ? No they were just friends ! Thus began our tryst of tour at Mandu. We experienced the aura and atmosphere of the fabled love-story between a poet and singer.

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We had read somewhere that Mandu was a ghost city abandoned suddenly for nearly more than 3 centuries. There are three to four theories floated as the probable reason for abandonment of Mandu as capital city. First of all the city was literally built over the dead bodies of the slaughtered local population. In 1305 the sultan of Delhi Allauddin Khilji captured Malwa and sent his deputy Ayan to cleanse the idolaters. They found a secret entry point which breached the massive fortress. Such a fury was unleashed all the prevailing temples and religious structures were destroyed. The second probable theory was that earthquake and famine struck the region it was left water less and the royalty migrated. The third theory might be that city was stuck with plague and malaria which forced to shift to Dhar. Final theory propounded was that it was the curse of Roopmati who committed suicide on hearing the death of her paramour Buz Bahadur.( 1555-1562 )

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Raja Bhoja ( 1010 – 1055 ) ruled the Malwa Region and extended his empire upto Vidisha on the east and Sabarmati on the west. He was a versatile personality with mastery in yoga, philosophy, poetry, medicine and archery. He was religious person who commissioned almost 104 temples in his empire, which were primarily hindu temple and later stages Jain. Some even suggest that he converted to Jainism. Since he was a legend with a long reign of 45 years he was also compared with fabled Vikramaditya.
With his foresight he constructed 3 dams to tap the Betwa river for irrigation and drinking purpose. This particular dam was breached on orders by Hoshang Shah ( 1406 – 1435 ) . This heinous act bought plenty of sufferings to the people of the region with spread of malaria and famine. The amount of water which was drained took 3 years, imagine the scale of destruction of the valuable water body.

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Another interesting fact is the seeding of Boabab trees in Mandu region. This species of tree even though beneficial for mankind in terms providing rich in calcium, iron seeds, it also sucks in and stores large amount of water upto 4500 litres when mature. This may have contributed to drying of water resources in the area too.
The amount of destruction of hindu and jain temples during the rule of Khiljis and Ghoris can be gauged from the salvaged sculptures in the region. All these artefacts are belonging to the time of these barbaric rulers destruction. They are all currently displayed and can be witnessed in central museums at Indore & Mandu.

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Ultimately Mandu became a ghost town by rapid depletion of water resource by destruction of a planned dam and descent of famine on the territory. Over a period of time migration of royalty took shape and finally the capital of Malwa shifted from Mandu to Dhar when Marathas took possession under Peshwa Baji Rao I in 1732.
Roopmati’s Pavilion : The love story of Baz Bahadur begins with a hunting expedition wherein he spots a shephard girl singing in a melodious voice in a rustic atomosphere. He instantly falls in love with girl, who refuses intially to join the court or harem of Buz Bahadur. She lays down some conditions to Baz Bahadur that she should be able to witness the sunrise and sunset from a vantage point everyday. She wanted to have a dharsan of the Narmada river during this time. She will neither be converted or forced to marry him was the second condition. The conditions was fulfilled by Baz Bahudur by constructing a pavilion with two towers and plenty of chambers below. It was a three storied structure with water flowing into the superstructure and ensuring cooling during summer and heating of water during winter. Currently only two stories are opened to the public, the third storey is still buried.
One can witness the Baz Bahadur palace from Roopmati’s pavilion. During the festival days and full moon nights Roopmati and Buz Bahadur used to have a singing competition as it were in the chambers located just opposite to each other. The voice is transmitted in the form of echo to the other chamber at a distance. We experimented the same and were convinced of their love story.
The fabled love story naturally invited enemies in the form of Adham Khan who heard the beauty of Roopmati. In 1561 Adham Khan attacked Mandu and defeated Baz Bahadur’s army in the battle of Sarangpur. On his defeat Adham Khan wanted to marry Roopmati, who refused to be another man’s paramour. She committed suicide by swallowing a diamond ring gifted by Baz Bahadur. She cursed the rulers will never see prosperity or progress. Thus ended a sad love story.ma6
According to our guide Baz Bahadur managed to escape from Mandu through a tunnel but at the other end of the tunnel he was caught and hanged as an enemy of the moghul empire. But according to another theory Baz Bahadur escaped being caught alive and took refugee at Chittaurgarh fort for a period of 8 years till he surrendered to Moghuls in 1570. He joined the army of Akbar thereafter till his death.
Baz Bahadur’s Palace : This palace was originally built by Nasir-uddin in 1508 according to the Persian inscription on top the arch. The palace became famous after its occupant Buz Bahadur too an extreme liking to the palace since he used to have dancing and singing shows inside. It was located near the Rewa Kund which was frequented every day without fail by Roopmati. Even though it was much smaller palace when compared to Roopmati pavilion it had small tank inside the palace. The water source was Rewa kund obviously. The terrace has lovely view point of the valley and surroundings. A green canopy filled with trees and a tomb is present near the complex. There is one big Baobab tree too adjescent to the palace.

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Rewa Kund : A reservoir was constructed by Baz Bahadur for the purpose supply water to Roopmati Pavilion and his palace. It is considered to be an architectural marvel since the water was channelised to feed the same to a higher place. Rewa Kund seems to apparently a temple premise originally because of the tradition beliefs of the hindus to have a pond alongside a temple.

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Echo Point : A series of tombs, mosque and hospital are located nearby. One can hear their voice echo because of the hillock in the background. This was demonstrated by one tribal person seated over there. We purchased some Doabab seeds along with some herbs for reducing weight being sold by a hawker at this point.

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Caravan Sarai : It is supposed to be a hospital for the sick and homeless during olden times. Even the injured soldiers were treated for recovery. It is a huge rectangular complex housing at least 60 plus chambers which was used as a recovery ward.
Malik Mughith’s Mosque : This mosque was constructed by Malik in 1452, who is considered to be father of Muhammed Khilji. The pillars and decorative panels of a temple which was earlier demolished by his father was used in construction of this mosque. The ASI tablet clearly indicates the same. Once inside the complex on can see the usage of the temple pillars in the entire complex which is meant to be a mosque. The arches of the temple bought down is a silent witness in one corner.

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Somavati Kund & Dariya Khan’s Mosque : This complex too housed another hindu temple was later converted into a Mosque. The pond is very clean and rectangular in shape with steps only one side leading to the pond. The mosque was filled with huge langoors and we could not enter the premise. The mosque is well finished with domes and arches. It almost seems like a private mosque for the royalty rather than public one.
Another complex which probably housed the pilgrims seems to have collapsed besides the mosque. A little distant away there is a tomb belonging to another royalty.
Dai Ki Mahal & Dai Choti Behan Ki Mahal : These two complexes must have house the royal matrons who had a special place in up bringing of children of the royal couple. They were provided with special quarters so that their status is recognised in the kings scheme of things. Their contribution was ultimately recognised in construction of tombs.
Lalbagh : Another unexcavated portion of a garden is located between Dai Ki Mahal and Somvati kund. Probably it was a landscaped garden for the royalty to relax and enjoy their evenings. This portion too must have been significant with ASI marking the spot.
Jali Mahal : It is supposed to be a resting place or tomb which is currently barricaded and is in requirement of repairs. The place even though it does not have any screen is still referred to as Jali Mahal because of its compact structure. It seems to be a tomb built in honour of some noblemen or royalty.
Neelkant Mahadev Temple : We missed visiting this place due to paucity of time and our guide’s car breaking down. The sanctum sanctorium of this temple contains the Shiv Linga and some inscriptions on the wall. The complex is fed by a spring located nearby. The present structure of the complex resembles a palace. This palace has a lovely view of the valley below.
Jain Temple : This temple is almost a mini replica of the Palitana group of temples. It is also known as Mandavgarh teerth. The temple consists of many images of the theerthankaras from Jainism. A museum of paintings etc are on display inside the temple. This complex is one of the last remanents of the Jain relics in the Mandu complex, it is located near the village group.ma15
Taveli Mahal : It currently houses the ASI museum at the enterance of the Jahaz Mahal complex. Taveli literally means the stables which used to house the elephants and horses belonging to the guards and royalty of the age. It is two storeyed structure with the upper deck housing the guards and visitors. One can have a panaromic view of the Jahaz Mahal along with the Kapur Talav from this complex.

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Jahaz Mahal : This magnificent super structure was built by Ghiyas Uddin Shah ( 1469-1500 ) as a palace of pleasure. His harem consisted of more than 12,000 women who were courtesans, dancers, masseurs, singers, musicians, tutors and maids to the royal women. Some of them were trans genders too. He set up a madarassa to educate the women folk. Even though he was a womanizer he abstained from drinking and strictly attended the prayers.
He built the palace which looked like a floating ship in between two tanks that is Kapur and Munj talav. When the water was filled in both the tanks on a full moon night it used to resemble like a ship floating on waters. There are numerous fountains and tanks built around the palace. The frontal portion of the palace has a staircase leading to the terrace which has three chatris built for viewing by the royalty. The ground floor contains three huge halls and a pavilion which has a projection towards the Munj tank. The ceilings are well decorated in hues of blue and yellow tiles. There are number of chambers which obviously was used as harems by the royal ladies, and it had a small cistern for them to bathe. The water was supplied through the Munj tank and the design of the cistern was such that women folk can easily slide in by steps without having knowledge of swimming as such. The bathing place had vents too, which could be heated up during winter season. A provision of the roof was created for the steam to escape.
The harems were designed in a manner of ensuring privacy with curtains and shadow lighting screens. The system of feeding water to the cistern was an architectural marvel considering it flowed through from southern end to the northern end in the process cooling the entire building during the summer months. The arched underground water channels exists even today reminding us that their planning was exquisite.
Imagine the celebrations and orgy sessions which royalty was engaged with a large harem. Giyasuddin had even penned treatise on pleasure known Nimatnama Or Book of delights. He penned the recipe as it for a Viagra in olden times. He mentions the key ingredients of the concoction by adding ginger, saffron, fried eggplant etc to make a snack food called samosa or cutlet. Further he seems have consumed sparrows brain fried in milk and ghee to ensure his potency. He also elucidates further to smear one’s penis with a mixture of cardamom oil, musk and honey to ensure that strong desire returns at old age. This combo will ensure “Strong lust…..potency returns, ecstasy is bestowed on the heart and erection & orgasm is attained

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The biggest contribution of Nimatnama is importance of perfumery in enhancement of sexual desires. His treatise includes scenting various parts of women’s body to increase the lust quotient. He elaborates to massage armpits with musk aroma & spread sandlewood paste on throat region. He used the knowledge from Persia on the art of aroma to arouse sensuality among partners. The treatise is almost fashioned on the lines of sex education with elaborate exposure of the art of sensuality. However the book which in its original format was smuggled off to some private collectors library in 1799 by East India company officials. It was pleasure to bring in a nutshell the original article. For those who desire the entire treatise kindly browse this link.

Reference article
No wonder all the carnal pleasures had to end with a bitter war of succession between the sons Nasiruddin and Alauddin Shah. Nasiruddin shah was exiled but he planned and executed a conspiracy to kill his younger brother and his entire family after one year. He returned to Mandu and ensured that his father too was poisoned to death in 1500.
There is a well landscaped garden which maintained by ASI as a part of preparation to get Mandu enlisted in the world heritage monuments. The impediment is primarily because of number of tribal residents in the entire mandu complex who need to be relocated in some area nearby.
Lohani Caves and temple ruins : These caves are last reminders of a different heritage that existed prior to its conversion into Islamic one. These caves were basically featuring shiv lings and bestowed with a pond. All the traces of temple and its images have disappeared and some of them are housed in local Museum housing the Hoshang Shah’s tomb.
The fragments of remnants of the temple are purported to used in construction of Hindola Mahal and many of the remains are also found in Champa Bauli inside the Dilwar khan’s mosque. All these point towards the hindu heritage completely being erased.

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Hindola Mahal : It is known as the swinging palace in lieu of the unique design in slanting façade. It was mainly used as a meeting place or durbar in the royal complex. The Hindola mahal construction is credited to Hoshang Shah ( 1406-1435 ). The complex has huge archways and doorways with a small portion being residential with balconies probably to house the women folks. The entire structure is built with red sandstone. The design takes care of ventilation and light for a huge assembly. The entire structure is T shaped. The entire complex seems to have been completed during the reign of Ghiyas uddin Shah.
Jamia Masjid : The majestic mosque complex construction was begun by Hoshang Shah and completed by Mahmud Khilji in 1454 AD. The planning and execution of the complex was undertaken in grand scale to ensure the Islamic domination of the area. There is a huge courtyard along with a prayer hall which can house nearly a 1000 people at one namaz session. Probably it was used during the celebration of id and other festivity for the entire populace to assemble. The entire structure is built in red sandstone with domes and minarets. The Chatris or umbrella form a unique style in construction of this mosque. Behind the Jamia masjid there is a burial place for Hosang Shah built in white marble.
Hoshang Shah’s Tomb : Hoshang shah was a clever strategic planner and executer of war games. He once tricked the ruler of Odissa into gifting 100 finest war elephants disguising himself and his men as traders. They abducted the ruler of Odissa when he came to inspect their merchandise of horses and demanded a ransom of 100 elephants. Thus Hoshang established his defenses at Mandu with the finest of horses from Persia and elephants from Odissa.
His tomb was begun when he was alive and completed by son Mahmud Khilji after his death. This tomb was finished in complete white Makrana marble from Rajasthan. It looks like a miniature version of the Taj Mahal minus the four minaretes. The single large dome in the centre of edifice looks exactly similar to Taj. The tomb was so impressive that Shah Jahan sent his architects to replicate the primary design of the original Taj.
The body of Hoshang was exhumed and interned inside the complex along with three other members of the family which included his wife. The architecture of the dome and crescent were fashioned on Persian design. The tomb is barricaded with a pillar like structure on one side. The entrance of the tomb is through a porch with three side entrances too to ensure smooth exit for the assembled crowd.
Hoshang Shah’s tomb is the first complete marble edifice constructed in the country. The claim to its being inspiration of sorts for construction of Taj Mahal seems to true in many ways.

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Ashrafi Mahal : It was designed by Mahmud Khilji as part of Jamia Masjid. The main purpose was to house a madrasa to impart education for the children. Later probably a portion of it was converted into a mint and treasury and a victory tower.
It was finally converted into a tomb for Mahmud Khilji on top of the existing edifice with a Chatri at the enterance. The superstructure seems to have collapsed over a period of time.

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Thus a tour Mandu can be quite revealing in terms of heritage, passion play and spookiness to add the aura of mystery of abandonment. No wonder the British did not want anything to heritage except for establishing and embellishing some of their artefacts for their private collection. Now the ASI is working hard to beget a World heritage status for Mandu complex which is spread over 12 square kilometers in area in its present format. The Buz word is that Mandu is definitely worth its weight in history and mystery.

Acknowledgement :

Wikipedia, William Darlymple, Scents and sensuality !

Jai Matanamadh

The syambhu (natural ) statue of Mata has been in existence from the 9th century. It is located approximately 70 kms from the town of Bhuj enroute the Lakhpat fort. The road towards the temple is as smooth as butter without any any humps or any pot holes. But one needs to vary of the same for we encountered a sudden road repairing trench while we travelled from Lakhpat to Narayan sarovar without any indication of the repair works.
The Samma clan of Rajputs seem to be earliest followers of Divine Mata. Later the Royalty started patronising the goddess with more families spreading the message of the goddess. Khengarji I ( 1548-1585 ) became a strong follower of Ma Ashapuraji and thus the followership started multiplying once the festivity of Navarathri in honour of the Mata commenced.

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Legends abound the aura of Mata. Once a trader stationed himself in the town near the Mata’s statue selling his ware. While sleeping he had a dream of Mata goading him to build a temple on the spot in her honor. Mata had advised him not to open the doors till six month but curiosity overcame the devotees and found the deity on her knees trying to get up.
Thus a temple in dedication was built by Devchand in order to fulfill his wishes of being blessed with a child. His wish was fulfilled by Mata after the construction of the temple. Thus Mata’s legend spread far and wide regarding this incident.
Prasad :
All the devotees visiting the temple are served with a simple and delicious food in the noon between 12 to 2 pm. Our driver suggested that we should partake the food ( Prasad ) as a mark of respect to Mata. We found that puris, sabji, rice and dhal were really tasty and it was served with devotion. Very rare one does find such hygienic food served as Prasad to devotees. It is unlimited serving but devotees are required not to waste the food, for it can fill the stomach of other devotees.
Melas :
Special ceremonies are conducted for Mata during the months of Chaitra ( April/May ) & Ashwin ( Sept-October ) during the time of Navaratri. During Navaratri a nine day festivity is organized in honor of the goddess. Special Pujas are conducted everyday during the festival days. Buffalo sacrifice was undertaken in olden days which was discontinued in favor of vegetarian fare. When the sacrifice was in vogue the blood of the beheaded buffalo’s were partaken by some women devotees in trance. The horrific practice was thankfully discontinued.
The havan pooja takes place in the midnight of the seventh day of Navaratri which is unique custom followed in the area. The Maharao was the chief guest who goes through the ceremonies conducted during the havan with chanting of mantras by the priest. There are lot of devotees who take a long walk from various parts of the country to arrive at doorstep of Mataji. The goddess helps in fulfilling the wishes of the devotees some time or the other.
Thus Mataji worship with pure mind and devotion helps in fulfilling the wishes and devotees keep flocking and donating money to the goddess. The legend of the goddess keeps growing day by day. The goddess represents Shakti, which is giver of wealth and food.
A devotional song sung by Gulshan Kumar will aptly sum it up :
Chalu, Bhulava Aye Hai,
Mata Ne bhulaya Hai !
( Come one and all, a call has been given. Our divine Mata has invited us to her doorstep )
Tere Dwar Pe Ay Ke, Nirash Na Koi Jaye,
Asha Purana Karini, Asha Purna Kare !
( Nobody goes back sad, after coming to your doorstep  All wishes are fulfilled of devotees)
Basic facilities for pilgrims stay is available at the temple guest house for devotees who want to stay put, however during Navaratri time it may not be possible in lieu of huge crowd flow. A visit to this temple always provides serenity and tranquility to the devotees. Jai Matanamadh.

Official website of the temple.

Ack : Photos from temple website.

Narayan Sarovar : Kutch

Originally there were five lakes surrounding the temples located in the area. This location was know to Alexander the great . Most of the lakes went dry due to parched weather and came alive once again after the earthquake of 1819. Adinarayan temple was built around the lake in 1550. A yogi named Naranagar seems to have provided facility for bathing on all sides of the lake by creating a stepped embankment. There are seven temples in the paved courtyard which is bound by fortress type of wall.

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However the wife of the Rao was dissatisfied with the management of the temples by the priests. Vagheli Mahakunvar, wife of Deshalji I, ordered the construction of Laxminarayan and Trikamray temple 1734 on the model of Dwarka temples. She endowed the temples with revenue from the surrounding villages for its maintainence. The taxes collected were used to run the temple on day to day basis.
The temple of Trikamray was modelled on Koteswar temple. 1819 the earthquake destroyed the central dome of the temple and it was rebuilt subsequently. The doors of the temple were silver plated and over the idol of Trikamray gold plating was undertaken by the devotees.

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Five temples were added on in the subsequent rulers time, they are Ranchhodji temple, Kalyanray temple, Goverdhannath temple, Adinaryan temple and Laxminarayan temple. These temples are located in a line, which was built by Rao Deshalji in 1828. Besides the temple there were two caves.
Two Fairs are celebrated one during April May another during Nov Dec. Many devotees come and conduct the last rites of the dead and gone. Basic accomodation are available in Narayan Sarovar, and Bus service is available from Bhuj.

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There is notified wild life sanctuary around the temple which is known as Naryan sarovar sanctuary. Chinkaras are found the sanctuary. There were number of species of fauna such as Procupine, Nilgai ( Blue Bull ) Indian Boar, Wolves, Mongoose, Hare, Striped Hyena, Cinkara, Black Buck, Desert cat and Pecocks found in the sanctuary. There was a proposal to introduce Cheetah’s from Africa into this arid zone but the proposal has been kept in abeyance since the African breed is very agressive compared to Asian, which might endanger further the existing fauna.  Reading the history of Cheetah’s extinction in India can be fascinating check this link Cheetah’s extinction

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We witnessed  a fox cross the road while travelling to Mandvi from Narayan Sarovar. There is 20 odd km short cut and the Birla cement plant Ultratech is located in between after the land for the sanctuary was denotified. The area is supposed to rich with limestones and a thermal plant too was inaugrated to produce electricity. Both these plants produce fine dust which makes the environs hazy. So it answered my curiousity why the environ is so hazy particularly when the environ is clean. Probably for the polluting industries the skies would have been rich blue like the Ladakh region.

Ack Photo Amit &  Wiki.

Koteswar Temple, Kutch

It is located on the mouth of Kori creek towards west of Kutch coastal Gujarat. It is approximately 180 kms away from Bhuj via Narayan Sarovar. It is almost the end point of Gujarat and over looks the vast expanse of sea with borders of Pakistan distantly visible. On a clear night i believe the street lights on the Sindh province are visible at Koteswar.
The ancient temple of Shiva was literally cut off from the mainland because of the marshy land but however after a BSF post was created for patrolling a well laid road was constructed from Naryan Sarovar towards Kosteswar. It is located just 5 kms away from Naryan Sarovar.

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The earliest mention of this place is found the travel diaries of Huein Tsang ( 602-664 ) who undertook 17 year journey through the silk route to India. He was on look out for all the Buddhist center whether it maybe monasteries or stupas located in Indian sub-continent. He describes Koteswar as a huge trading port on the boundary of the creek which even today stands as it is but not much of trading activity barring fishing. He mentions there were more than 40 monasteries and around 3000 monks lived in it. There were around 10 temples in the midst of the monasteries amongst which the Shiva temple was the most famous.
MYTHICAL REFERENCE :
Ravana was granted a boon after years of penance by Lord Shiva for his outstanding devotion. He was gifted with a Shivling which had miraculous powers through which he could fulfill all his wishes and desires. Ravana was arrogant by nature he wanted to utilise the powers to vanquish his enemies and exhibit his powers on his people. He hurriedly took flight and dropped the Shivling at Koteswar which multiplied into crores of Linga. Ravana in a hurry picked a replica of the original Linga and rushed to Lanka. Thus Ravana was tricked to part with his powers for his evil inclination and desire. At the very spot this kotilingeswar temple in dedication to lord Shiva was built.

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Currently a renovated modern temple stands in place of an old temple. There are two other small shrines dedicated to Lord Hanuman and Lord Ganesha. The temple is neatly maintained and well designed since it overlooks the creek and port. One can be seated on the verandah to soak in fresh air and light and click beautiful photographs after the dharsan at the temple.

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The original temple were built by Khers of Golay, now they are all converted to Muslims. The rebuilding of the new temple was undertaken in 1820. In 1863 Pragmalji sponsored the crown made of silver to be placed on Shiv Ling.

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One can see the magnificent sunset from Koteswar since it is unpolluted land’s end. Overall a visit to this holy place, wherein the ashes of the dead are immersed too by locals, gets one re-juvenated. Fortunately the crowd flow of vehicles etc are strictly managed by the BSF post located at the entrance of the temple. The temple looks like a fortress with huge walled structure facing the creek.

Ack : Map and photo courtesy Bing

Earthquake victims memorial – Bhujia fort

Bhujia fortress was probably built to fend Bhuj town against the pirates from Sindh and the Moghul army. The construction of the fort was commissioned by Rao Godji (1715-1718 ) to ensure that his bastion is safeguarded from enemies over the hillock. However the fort was completed over a long period of time during his son’s Deshalji I ( 1718-1741 ) period. The walls were strongly built to protect his kingdom from invasions. The fort has witnessed 6 major battles after its construction.

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During the first war against the Moghuls, a group of Naga Babas came to the rescue of Kutch army. They feriously fought against the moghuls and snatched victory from the hands of defeat. Sher Khan Buland’s army retreated when they witnessed such a ferocious conter attack. Since that time Naga Baba’s have a special status in the minds of the ruler of kutch. A temple was constructed in reverence of their diety Naga. Every Nagapanchami there is a procession from the town leading up to Naga temple on the Bhujia premises.
The British took possession of the Fort from 1819. Kutch accepted the suzerenity of the British under Colonel William Coir. Most of the trading was carried out from Mandvi port into Kutch region by the british. The british were primarily interested in the ship building industry to maintain their naval fleet.

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Once the commercial liners started operation Mandvi port started loosing importance. The Burj fort served as centre to store arms and ammunitions safely. Later after Independence Indian army took charge of the fortress to store their ammunition till 2001 earthquake. Before it was a restricted area since the army was stationed, after 2001 the Army relocated to different area paving way for tourist to freely enter the area for trekking up the fortress.
One has to climb a few hundred steps before reaching the peak from where the view of Bhuj township is clearly visible. The stairs begin from the Naga temple. On the left hand side another devi mandir is located which is managed by Kannada sangha of Bhuj. It has a small enclosure for teaching the local school children too and a stage is set up to conduct cultural programs. Hopefully the fortress will be resurrected since it is in various stages of crumbling due to walls cracking and giving way.  It is a simple renovation job considering the simplicity of construction.

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The Gujarat govt. is planning to erect a huge memorial in honor of the victims of the earthquake. More than 15000 people lost their lives to the devastation unleashed by the earthquake on 26th January 2001. The body count was undertaken in front of the Bhujia fort. The fortress has been a mute witness to the tragedy and is fitting place for a memorial considering its vast area and heritage. The memorial is still to be completed.  A list of victims who lost their life will be put up in the memorial plaque which is being installed.   It is a grim reminder that man cannot control the fury unleashed by nature in whatever form. Thus the original nature worship stands us in good stead.

Ack : Photos from Lagaan film clip and wiki.

Parag & Aina Mahal Bhuj

These monuments are located in the heart of Bhuj town. They are adjescent to each other and privately managed monuments. The current ticket price is Rs 40 per pax and camera ticket of Rs 50 per unit. Both these monuments have apparently bore the brunt of damage during the 2001 earthquake and were renovated with the help of the Iconic Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachachan. He was able to canvass and garner funds for the renovation undertaken.

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Parag mahal was designed by Col Henry Wilkins in an Italian Gothic model. He employed many Italian artisans to complete the monument, and being firangis they demanded to be compensated in Gold coins. The construction was begun in 1865 and completed in 1879 during the reign of Khengarji III, after the death of Paragmalji in 1875.

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Durbar hall is the best portion of the palace with a huge hall endowed with plenty of windows and ventilation. The huge arched teak wood doors decorated with stained glasses gives a rich look. The hall is well decorated with Chandeliers, wall fittings of hunted animals such as deers and paintings with seating arrangement for the dignitories and visitors. Statues of angels and messengers of god are embedded on the pillars. There is dummy of Lioness too adoring the showcase in one corner of the durbar hall.

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The balcony on one side is open terraced with a watch tower and a bell tower embedded in them. One can have a complete view of the Bhuj Township around Harmisar lake and surroundings. One has to climb 28 spiral staircase to reach the upper deck of the tower. Overall Parag Mahal is a unique monument considering that it was built at a time when there sufficient unrest and it costed over 30 lakhs due to cost over-run in 14 years.
After the 2001 earthquake damage the Palace was robbed by antique hunters in 2006 who pulled of a heist and damaged many antique items stored in the palace. The palace wore a ghostly look till it was resurrected after Amitabh Bachchan took personal initiative.

 

 

Aina Mahal
When Lakhpatji was a prince ( 1707 -1761 ) he developed a passion for music and dance. He visited the moghul emperors court on the invite of Emperor Muhammed Shah and was impressed by their luxurious life style. He enjoyed the private Muzras arranged in his tent for a nightcap literally. He was escorted back to Kutch with two courtesans from the Moghul darbar as a mark of friendship. This inspired him to build a similar palace for pleasure in Aina Mahal.

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Ramsingh Malam was engaged as an architect who had returned from Europe learning all the latest technique in architectural designing. As soon as Lakhpat ascended the throne in 1741 he commissioned the Aina Maha and it took almost a decade to complete the same in 1752 when he was official declared a king.
Aina Mahal being a palace for pleasure had plenty of mirror work in the form of chandeliers, stained windows, pillars decorated with glass work, roofs decorated with mirrors, plenty of wall mirrors were installed to give a glamourous look to the corridors. The earthquake took its toll in damaging half the building and only the second half of the structure is resurrected.

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Some of the important items on display in the current museum at Aina Mahal are :
Maharao’s Horoscope :
Every ruler in Kutch believed in drawing up their own horoscope. Maharao Pragmalji’s II horoscope was drawn up in 1839 which spreads over 127 feet in length being considered as the longest handwritten horoscope in the world. Only portion of the horoscope are displayed on the façade of the palace walls in Aina Mahal.
Nagapanchmi Scroll :
This scroll which spread over 47 feet long depicts the procession of Maharao Pragmalji ( 1838-76 ) on the occasion of Nagapanchmi ( festival of snakes ) The procession used to commence with the king riding a horse drawn carriage from Aina mahal and terminate at the Burjio ( fortress of Bhuj ). It was finished using organic materials and natural dyes by Juma Ibrahim in 1876.

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Hira Mahal :
An opulent bedroom was designed for the royalty by the architect. The four legs of the cot were made of gold. A gold plated mirror painting of the king was hung on the walls of the bedroom along mirorrs on all sides. Chandeliers provided lighting and wall panels and other decorations were hung on the wall. A diamond studded sword and shield presented by the Moghul emperor too finds a place on the bedroom wall. It is alleged that the design of bedroom was such that a single light would shine through entire room due to multiple reflections.

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Darbar Hall :
A well lit up room with ventilation was built for the king to hold meetings with visitors and noblemen of Kutch. The king was seated in the centre of the durbar hall with visitors sitting in a straight row on the left and right hand side in front of him. The seats were designated as it were reserved for respective jagirdars, it was left empty if they were absent. Current arrangement is from the british period, earlier it was diwan type of arrangement.
Fuvara Mahal :
It was an entertainment room with dance and music flowing to entertain the guests of the King. It was well decorated with Chandeliors, windscreens, wall mirrors and curtains. The lighting effect with stained glass added to the passionate atmosphere.

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Aina Mahal :
It was a room filled with mirror work which was dream come true of Lakhpatji in 1951 when it was completed. The design was inspired by European and blended with Kutchi artwork.
The other rooms were designed for marriage and visitors room. Thus a palace for luxury was conceived and executed by the architect Ramsinh Malam.
Overall a visit to both the monuments is a must for tourists in order to soak in the luxurious lifestyle of the Rao’s. They did not want to be left behind in terms of grandeur and pompous lifestyle followed by the Moghuls. These monuments are symbol of their success and prosperity.

Ack : 2 photos from Aina Mahal official website.