The thrill of experiencing the beauty of the ‘Heart of India’ was in the air. A group of travelers had chosen a beautiful route to explore the religious, architecture, and cultural trail of Madhya Pradesh. We commenced the journey on the 16th Oct in a comfortable bus from the Ashok Lake View Hotel at Bhopal. Like excited children, the team moved towards Ujjain through the well maintained smooth roads and lush green country side. After two hours the bus halted at Dodi (midway point) for allowing us to stretch our legs and also enjoy the hot pakoras, fries and piping hot tea. The journey continued in its own pace. While some looked around, other travelers settled down to watch a Bollywood thriller till the bus arrived at Hotel Shipra Residency in Ujjain. A nice dinner awaited us in the restaurant where the hospitable staff pampered us later. After hearing the briefing for the next day’s events I decided to rest and gear up for the an early start next morning.
As the dawn broke, everyone assembled to head for Mahakaleshwar temple, one of the 12 Jyotirlingas (The Radiant Sign of the Almighty Shiva) situated all across the country. According to the historians the morning ritual of ‘aarti’ was performed from the ashes of human pyre at 3 am each day, but now it is done with ‘ambers from cow dung ‘here. Being a Monday, the crowds were milling in the morning itself, so the officials arranged a special entry for the team. It was a sublime experience to visit the Sanctum Santorum. The next halt was the ‘Harsiddhi temple ‘in the vicinity, where each day 1152 lamps are lit at sunset on the two tall structures constructed for this purpose. According to Hindu mythology, the 13th organ (elbow) of Mata Sati fell here after fragmentation of her body. This is 13th amongst the 51 Shaktipeeths (places where organs of Mata Sati fell) across the country. A short walk brought us to the banks of River Shipra, from where one can see the lovely structure of the Ram Temple built by the river side.
A long bus journey followed through the hinterland culminated at Maheshwar, a small township in MP. The place is known for Ahilya Bai Holkar fort, museum and Maheshwari sarees. We explored the town, visited the fortress and also a handloom factory giving an insight into the painstaking effort involved in weaving the famous saree. An ancient Ram temple stands majestically on the banks of river Narbada. The ghats are very picturesque. With sun setting in the west, a pleasant boat ride was a perfect way to reach the Narmada Retreat. Our last journey for the day commenced to Mandu. Late in the evening after some steep maneuvers, the bus arrived at Malwa Resort in Mandu. I was overjoyed to learn that tents are available to sleep for the night. What better way to end an action packed day. It was a luxurious accommodation overlooking a part of Sagar Lake.
Next day my early morning yoga session was interrupted by a chatter of monkeys nearby who were chasing one another. A steaming hot breakfast spread set us in mood for a long day ahead. The first destination was the alluring ‘Jahaz Mahal’( A ship that never sailed!). The structure still stands tall in the midst of two lakes, bearing the testimony of the rich history, with the passage of time. The anonymous Afghan architect who built this edifice knew all about conservation of water and concept of rain harvesting in this rain parched area. The grand aqueducts, reservoirs, and interlinking canals work even to this day. The tragic love story of Baz Bahadur, the last Malwa ruler and the beauty, Rani Roopmati, comes to life as one hears the stories from the learned guides. The legend lives on to this day. The Hindola Mahal and Gateways still hold the onlookers attention with its grandeur.
The Rani Roopmati pavilion, a little distance away is perched atop the hill where the watch towers were erected to keep an eye on the intruders and invaders. A 32 km long wall surrounds the periphery of hills, marking the boundary still stands. We moved on to Baz Bahadur’s Palace with a brief glimpse of Jami Masjid. The concert hall in the premises has a lovely acoustic system that uses the reflections from the walls and the domes within the structure to give a distortion free experience.
The return journey started after lunch. We got an unexpected surprise on the way when the bus stopped for a brief halt on the outskirts of Indore, where preparations were in full sway for a feast of ‘Bafla and Dal’( a popular local cuisine) by the locals. The huge vessel stood atop a ‘chulah’(firewood stove) and nearby the fire was lit up with cow dung cakes awaiting roasting the ‘baflas’.
The impeccable planning and painstaking efforts of the organizers was evident. The FAM trip organized by MPTM16 was a small wonder and an unforgettable experience, with a generous spread of history, culture, fine food that will stay in the memory forever.
Mr. Rahul Bhatia attended Madhya Pradesh Travel Mart on behalf of my blog ‘Pendown’. To read more from him, please click here.