Showing posts with label Buddhism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Buddhism. Show all posts

MP Diaries - Maladevi Temple, Gyaraspur - Beauty Carved in Stone

Gyaraspur is a small village located about 35 km from Vidisha and surely was on our list of places to visit in Madhya Pradesh. It took us about 40 minutes to reach this place from Vidisha, all thanks to the sign boards put up by Madhya Pradesh tourism. We headed directly to the 'Maladevi temple' situated on the edge of a cliff. We were greeted by an Egyptian Vulture that lay perched on the finial (kalasha) of the temple, giving us umpteen opportunities to capture him on camera. A gradual descent by steps brought us to the temple. The nature of construction of this temple is hybrid, being partly carved out of rock and  partly structural. The temple is carved to perfection and the balconies seen on the sides of the mandapa are an interesting feature. The entry to the temple is restricted owing to safety concerns, though we could peep in to have a glimpse of the temple interiors. The temple by its outlook seems to be of  Vaishnava origin, but later converted to a Jain temple. There are a  few images of Jain tirthankaras kept inside the sanctum of the temple. This temple was built in the 10th century AD by Partihara kings. The only person we came across here was the temple care taker, who had maintained this place quite well. He was awestruck to know that we  had come from so far  to witness this beautiful place. He had a questionnaire session with us to which we answered patiently. He seemed happy at the end of our conversation and gave us more details with regards to places that are worth a visit around Gyaraspur.
Egyptian Vulture Perched on the Finial of the Temple
The Partly Ruined Shikara
Shikara Carved to Perfection
Heavily Carved Balconies
Dwarapalas
 Pillars of the Front Porch carrying motifs of Kalasha
Maladevi Temple Gyaraspur
Side View of the Beautiful Temple
Maladevi Temple - Beauty Carved in Stone
We thanked him and moved on to check out two other beautiful structures, the Hindola Torana and the Chaukhamba (four pillared hall) which are located about 1 km from the Maladevi temple. These places seem to be the remains of a large temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The 'Hindola Torana' or the 'Swinging Gateway' is an entrance gateway having two lofty pillars that support a double arched architrave. The pillars stand upright on a  pedestal with its bases housing carvings that depict the ten incarnations or avatars of Lord Vishnu, of which the form of Lord Rama seems to be damaged beyond recognition. The arched architrave has been intricately carved with very minute detailing. A little further lies the four pillared hall or the Chaukhamba which probably was a part of the main temple. As we reached the main road, we sighted a board directing towards 'Ath Khamba' (a structure with eight pillars) and decided to visit this place too. The structure was marvelous though in ruins, and originally may have been a big temple built in 9th century AD by the Chandela Prince Krishna as per the inscriptions found here. There is a beautiful Makara Torana with intricately carved pillars and door jambs. We missed visiting the Bajramatha temple and Dhaikinath Ki Stupa which are situated close by,  as we had no information about them.
Hindola Torana Gyaraspur
A View of the Hindola Torana and Chaukhamba
Hindola Torana
Chaukhamba
Varaha (3rd incarnation of Lord Vishnu) emerging from the Waters with the Earth (Bhudevi) on his Elbow.
Ath Khamba Gyaraspur
Ath Khamba
Intricately Carved Pillars of Ath Khamba
The Decorative Makara Torana
Entrance fee: Entry is free. 
Distance from  nearby major town: 35 km from Vidisha.
Accommodation: There are no lodges in Gyaraspur, however, the closest and a better choice would be Gateway Retreat at Sanchi maintained by MPSTDC. 
Where to eat: There are a few small roadside eateries here.  
References: 
1. RBS Visitors Guide India, Madhya Pradesh
2. Architecture of the Indian Sub-continent by Takeo Kamiya 

PS: A new page has been added to our blog, which has a collection of our Vlogs. Click here to view. 

MP Diaries: Sanchi Stupas A Buddhist Master Piece

On the last day of the year 2016, we began our journey early in order to explore Bhopal and around to the maximum extent possible. Having explored many interesting places like Bhimbetka, Ashapuri and Bhojpur the previous day, we awaited the exploration of Sanchi with equal curiosity. Sanchi was always on our wish list of  places to visit as it is proudly one among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India. Sanchi is located in Vidisha district of Madhya Pradesh and is situated close to the Tropic of Cancer, which is encountered on the Bhopal-Sanchi highway. Unfortunately, we missed the exact location of the Tropic of Cancer and weren't ready to travel back. A drive of around 50 minutes from Bhopal brought us to Sanchi. We were one amongst the few early visitors to this place and  as the crowd was thin giving us an opportunity to  enjoy the calm and serene environs of Sanchi.
Buddha Dharma Sangha
Dharma-Chakra, Yaksha and Tri-Ratna 
Sanchi is one of the few places that played a pivotal role and prevailed through out the Buddhist era in India, with its history spread across 1300 years. Sanchi has witnessed the genesis, rise and fall of Buddhism. There are many stories associating Sanchi with various kingdoms, right from Ashokan era to the reign of Paramaras. Sanchi seemed a perfect site to build the Stupas owing to its strategic location between the towns of Vidisha and Ujjain and its proximity to the place of confluence of  Bes and Betwa rivers. Post Ashokan period, Sanchi came under the control of Kshatrapas which was conquered later in 4th century AD by the Guptas. Sanchi regained importance under the Gupta rule with development and construction activities  progressing in full swing. The down fall of Sanchi began only in the 12th century AD and  the exact reason for its downfall is unknown and remains a mystery. Though the accepted theory is that the rise of Brahmanism led to the extinction of Buddhism in the land of its birth, the same may not be true, since there are evidences of  places like Ellora and Badami, where both the religions of Hinduism and Buddhism peacefully coexisted for several hundred years.
Sanchi Place to Visit in Madhya Pradesh
Temple No 18
In 1881, General Taylor discovered  the ruins and found a few intact stupas, thus bringing this place to light. Though many people visited this place later, it was only in 1881 that Major Cole took charge and  initiated a large scale repair work towards restoration and preservation of these monuments. It was Sir John Marshall, the then Director General of Archaeology in India between 1912 and 1919 who was responsible for restoring  Sanchi to its present condition. Various excavations carried out later by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Bhopal circle,  have made interesting revelations.
Monastery 46
Stupas are simple tomb like structures housing relics, better than burial tombs which were used by Buddhists and Jains. A Stupa generally comprises of torana/s (gateways), vedika (stone fence railing), pradakshina-patha (circumambulatory walkway), a cylindrical base  or foundation, stairway, medhi (upper pradakshina patha), anda (hemispherical flattened dome), harmika (kiosk),  yasti (mast)  and a chattra (spire/umbrella). When Buddha left for heavenly abode, his ashes were buried in eight different stupas. It is said that Ashoka further divided and placed them in 84 stupas, most of  which have vanished with the weakening of Buddhism.
Large Stone Bowl
Stupa 1 and Toranas - The largest stupa here is stupa 1, also known as the 'Great Stupa'. Though the size of this stupa was originally half its current size when  initially built during the Ashokan period, it was later improvised in the 2nd century AD during the reign of Shunga Dynasty. The four gateways here have magnificent toranas (gateways) belonging to 1st century BC. The gateways are in the form of three long and thin flat suspended stones standing on two pillars, portraying scenes from Jataka tales. Various scenes from Buddha's life and the subsequent history of Buddhism are depicted on the gateways here. The gateways of stupa 1 are truly an outstanding work of art on stone. This Stupa has a large dome with a  three tiered chattra or umbrella at its top.
Sanchi Stupa
Stupa 1
Stupa 3 - Situated very close to stupa 1, this stupa is much smaller and simpler in style with the presence of a single torana in its  front and houses a simple umbrella at its top, unlike stupa 1.
Stupa 3
Stupa 2 - Situated at the foot of the hill, this stupa  is similar to Stupa 3 with smaller dimensions and devoid of any torana. The chattra here lies broken.
Stupa 2
Temple 17 - This belongs to the Gupta period (5th century AD) and is one among the earliest temples of India. The temple is flat roofed  with a square sanctum  having a portico supported by 4 pillars.
Temple 18 - This is an apsidal shrine built in the 7th century AD on the earlier  remains of  a hall  belonging to the Mauryan empire. The temple has undergone restoration during 10th century AD with  an addition of carved door jambs.
Temples 17 and 18
Monastery 51 and the Stone Bowl - Monastery 51 is a large ruined structure comprising of various rooms surrounding a courtyard. The shrine was located right across the entrance. There is a giant stone bowl close by to this monastery.
Monastery 51
Monasteries 46 and 47 - These two monasteries are interlinked with each other, Monastery 47 being the larger of the two.  While Monastery 47 has many rooms, a pillared verandah that leads to an antechamber and a shrine, Monastery 46 has fewer rooms and can be reached through a doorway from the verandah of Monastery 47.
Monastery 46
Temple and Monastery 45 - This temple belonging to the medieval period was originally built during the 8th century AD along with the monastery and probably restored during the 11th century AD. The door jambs of this temple  have beautiful carvings depicting the river goddesses of Ganga and Yamuna.
Buddha Inside Monastery 45
Pillars - There are many pillars here of which, Pillar 10 is the most important and the oldest pillar erected by Ashoka.  While only the base of the pillar remains insitu, the  fragments of the shaft are placed in a shelter nearby and its capital is preserved  in the museum. Pillar Nos. 25 and 26 belonging to a later period also bear significance.
Ashoka Pillar
Ashoka Pillar 10
Building 43 - This ruined building having a peculiar round bastion at four corners,  is considered to be among the last built structures here.
Building 43
ASI Museum -  The Museum is situated at the base of the hill and houses various collections of artefacts found during excavations at Sanchi.
Ashokan Column  Lion Capital
Ashokan Column - Lion Capital 

Entrance Fee: Rs.30/- per head for Indian citizen and Rs.500/- per head for others. Entry is free for Children aged up to 15 years.
Distance from nearby major town:  48 km from Bhopal
Accommodation: Options for accommodation are few, with Gateway Retreat maintained by MPSTDC being a reasonable one. Alternatively, one can also stay at Bhopal overnight.
Where to eat: While there are many roadside eateries here, Hotel Sambodhi International is one of the better options. 
References:
1. Sanchi - World Heritage Series by ASI
2. Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent - Takeo Kamiya
3. Upenn

MP Diaries - Prologue

 "MP Diaries" is a chronicle of our recent road trip to the magnificent state of Madhya Pradesh. Our journey in and across MP felt like home. We owe our sincere thanks to the  people of Madhya Pradesh. Until the evening of 23rd  December 2016, the plan was uncertain. Almost every day in December, we planned/ unplanned for this trip due to various reasons. Looking back, we know we made the right decision. As we had lost our camera along with all its accessories during our Chikmagalur trip long back, we went ahead to buy another DSLR on 24th of December for our upcoming MP trip. This apart, the car was not even serviced owing to the dilemma of our trip, although the much needed engine oil change and coolant top up was done on the morning of 25th December just before we hit the highway.
Our Best Friend in MP
During our return journey to Bangalore, our vehicle (Xylo) which had behaved well through out the trip developed fuel leakage about 150 km away from home. We realised about the leakage only after the smell of the fuel intensified.  Being a Sunday noon, the chances of finding of a service center were meager. My wife kept an eye for any operational garage as we drove and we found one in Devanahalli. Thanks to the heroics of this mechanic, the leakage which was manageable priorly, only increased as we drove although he had convinced us that we could drive till home safely.  At about 12 km  to home, we observed fumes coming out of our vehicle's engine, which rang an alarm bell to stop immediately. We had to park our vehicle and book a cab to reach home, thus ending our wonderful journey.
Madhya Pradesh Route Map (click here)
Two other important aspects for planning our trip were our 20 month old kid and demonetisation. Though our little one enjoys traveling, the next fifteen days would be a testing time for him as well as us with regards to food, drinking water and sleep. We three, together, managed it quite well.  Though he caught cold due to the extreme cold in Gwalior, the hotel staff were cooperative in setting up a heater at the middle of night, without which the situation would have only worsened. Thanks again to the staff at hotel Ambassador, Gwalior who were helpful and responsive with the heater, it was a savior!. This apart, he enjoyed well through out our journey. Demonetisation made most of us go cashless, hence we had to be prepared for overcoming this. As we decided late about our journey, we had little time to go the bank and draw money. We had to be dependent on undependable ATM's for the rest of our journey in addition to not being sure  about how far plastic currency/wallet would be accepted. Most of the fuel stations accepted cards/e-wallets, except for one in Andhra state. Almost all toll booths accepted cards/ e-wallets payments. Most of the budget hotels we stayed in were quite hesitant to accept any form of digital pay mode and preferred cash invariably. Many ATM's across the states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh were operational and issued money, Maharashtra being an exception where long queues in front of banks were a common sight. On the whole, the effect of demonetisation on our journey was nil.
 Madhya Pradesh like all other states in India is blessed with rich natural, cultural and historical heritage. Driving across Madhya Pradesh was a pleasant experience as described in our previous post. While researching on  places to visit in MP, we realised that finalizing our itinerary was a tough job. Since it was a road trip, we had the freedom to go around as we wished (which we always enjoy) and explore the lesser known places. We made a list of places we  wanted to visit. We also made sure to be prepared for the harsh winters of North India during December. A major disadvantage to us while traveling during winter was that the days are shorter and we had to manage our timings accordingly. Gwalior in the Northern part was the coldest place during this trip and we had to use a heater, both in our room as well as our vehicle during travel (rarity for us). Driving from Orchha to Khajuraho was a challenge in itself owing to the zero visibility due to smog. To add to our misery, my wife realised at the right time (being quite sarcastic!) that I  hadn't collected my ID from the hotel we checked out last. Thinking wise, we drove back to get the ID rather than getting it couriered to our residential address. We will surely remember this drive for long and will always cherish it. 
List of the Places we planned to visit 
1) Pilgrimage - Omkareshwar and Ujjain
3) Architectural, Buddhism/Jainism - Sanchi, Udayagiri, Badoh Pathari, Budhi Chanderi 
4) Architectural, Islamic - Mandu, Asirgarh, Dhar, Burhanpur, Chanderi  
5) Prehistoric - Bhimbetka 
6) Natural Wonders - Marble Rocks and Dhuandhar Falls
7) Wildlife - Bandhavgarh, Panna and Chambal 
Unfortunately, Bandhavgarh and Panna didn't happen since the online safari booking was full. We thought it wasn't feasible to travel to Bandhavgarh/ Panna and try on the spot safari  booking. Also, the prices of guaranteed safari via resorts was way too high. We didn't make it also to Ujjain due to paucity of time.
Places to visit in Madhya Pradesh
Madhya Pradesh - The Heart of Incredible India (Click on the image for Enlarged View) 
Our companions of the trip
1) Information partner - “Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent " by Takeo Kamiya, India - Eyewitness Travel of DK, books we bought locally during our journeys across MP and a  few details collected from various websites/ blogs
2) Clicking partners – Nikon D3300, Lenovo K5 Note
3) GPS partner - Eicher Road Atlas (wonderful road atlas) and Google Maps
4) Music partner -  iPad Mini with 16GB songs
5) Telecom partners - Airtel and Idea - Connectivity was very good which ensured we kept in touch with all our loved ones
6) A travel diary for writing down details of places visited, etc., including expenditure (unfortunately we didn’t use it as usual!).
Our Travel Oath
1) Not to exceed a speed limit of 100 kmph (Result: Roads were too good to keep a tab on speed limit)
2) No night driving beyond 10 pm. (Result: Had to break this oath on two nights only to keep pace with time)
3) Calling home every day (Result: Did not dare to break this one, if not this, the reverse surely happened!)
Total Cost: Under Rs.65,000/- per couple +child. Fuel expense (Rs.24 K) and Accommodation (Rs.17 K) being the major contributors, toll fee too significantly contributed to the expense
Road Conditions:  Do we need to speak about this again? Although most of the roads were good to  drive, there were many stretches of NH which were under repair or in a bad shape. Sadly, the caution/diversion boards too were not clearly visible. Two such stretches were from Mandu to Indore via Dhar (we hated this stretch!) and Shivpuri to Gwalior
Total km: 5243
Number of Days: 14,  (25 December 2016, 9:15 am to 08 January 2017 6:30 pm)
Total No. of photos taken: 10162 clicks 
Team G Cube in MP 

"Roadissi" Dancing on the Roads of Orissa

      "Roadissi" is the chronicle of our road trip to the beautiful state of Orissa/Odisha.  After reading a newspaper article about the famous temple of India "The Sun Temple of Konarak" being in danger, we decided to visit this marvelous  temple. Though our initial plan was only a 2 to 3 days trip covering Puri - Konark- Lake Chilika - Bhubaneshwar, on researching for places in Orissa, we realised 2 to 3 days were insufficient!!! A good 10 to 15 days would give us a good chance of covering most of the places and since we were driving so far, it made sense to make the best use of our time! Rule number one was to complete all our official works so we could take leave without any hindrances. Finally, we managed to get a good  two weeks leave and here on started our adventurous and unforgettable road trip to Orissa.
       Orissa is blessed  with immense natural, cultural and religious heritage. James Fergusson (author of the book " History of Indian and Eastern Architecture") declares in his book that " there are more temples now in Orissa than in all the rest of Hindustan put together". W W Hunter stated that "From end to end, it is one region of pilgrimage". Orissa, rightly called as the land of temples, is home to the most beautiful masterpieces of architecture. 
Our Itinerary
1) Pilgrimage - Puri Jaganath, Puri  and the Lingaraja  Temple, Bhubaneshwar
2) Architectural, Hindu - Konark, Bhubaneshwar, Cuttack, Banks of  the River Mahanadi
3) Architectural, Buddhism/Jainism - Dhaulagiri, Udayagiri (2), Ratnagiri, Lalitagiri and Khandagiri
4) Natural wonders - Atri and Taptapani Hot Water Springs
5) Wildlife - Simlipal Tiger Reserve, Bhitarkanika and Gahirmatha, Chilika and Satkosia
6) Beaches - Gahirmatha, Chilika, Puri, and Chandrabagh
7) Forts - Sisupalgarh and Cuttack
8) Art - Pipli, the Art Village
9) Asokan Edicts - Dhaulagiri and Behrampur
 Unfortunately, the Simlipal Tiger Reserve remained closed due to Naxal activities in the region, thus ruining our opportunity of visiting the reserve as well as India's second highest waterfall - the Barehipani waterfall (1300 ft), which falls inside the reserve limits. Also, visits to Satkosia, Taptapani, Cuttack and Behrampur  failed to materialize due to various reasons. Apart from these, as it was road trip, we got to explore a lot of hidden treasures of both states, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. Road trips always are an added advantage as we have no time limits and free to explore any place we feel like!

Places to visit in Orissa
Roadissi - Dancing on the roads of Orissa
  Our companions of the trip
1) Information Center -  "Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent " by Takeo Kamiya, India - Eyewitness Travel of DK, Incredible India of IMS, Wildlife Holidays in India of Outlook Traveller, Konark - By Thomas Donaldson, Temple Cities of Orissa - By Balaram Mishra and few details collected from various websites
2) Clicking partners - Canon Power shot G3 (5 GB) and Canon EOS 450 D (16 GB)
3) GPS -  Eicher Road Atlas (wonderful road atlas) and IMS India Road Atlas
4) Music partner - Our good old pen drive with 4 GB capacity, full of songs (old and new Kannada and Hindi songs, dropped the latest ones as some of them have no meaning at all!!)
5) Telecom partners - BSNL, Airtel and Vodafone - had three for safety as we were unsure of the connectivity (though it turned out to be far better than we expected). Very important to keep in touch with our loved ones
6) A travel diary for writing  down  details of places visited, etc., including expenditure

Our Travel Oath
1) Not to exceed a speed limit of 100 kmph (Result:Never exceeded 100 kmph)
2) No night driving beyond 10 pm . (Result:Oath broken on last day while returning back, by celebrating New Year's during the drive)
3) Calling home everyday (Result:Did not dare to break this one!) 
 
The only package trip we opted for, during our trip : 2 days at the Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary. Halted at the Sand Pebbles Resort, very close by to the sanctuary limits

Total Cost : Under Rs 60,000/- per couple, including the Bhitarkanika package (16k) and diesel expense (14k), which are the major contributors

Road Conditions : 95 % of the roads were excellent, rest were manageable except  for a kilometer stretch that leads to the Bhitarkanika Sanctuary
Total km : 4438
Number of Days : 14, 19 December 2010 5:15 am to 01 Jan 2011 2:30 pm
Total No of photos taken : 14 GB, 7352 clicks
The Beginning
Morning Hues
First Sunrise of our Trip
Smooth Road Connecting Chintamani and Madanpalle
A P State Highway  61
Traffic Pile Up on the River Godavari Bridge
Traffic Jam at Vizag Steel Junction
Awesome Road Connecting Puri and Konark
Wow ! What a Sight - The Sun Temple, Konarak
Muddy  Road Leading to the Wild Bhitarkanika
Last Sunset of our  trip  (Visakhapatnam)
 The End and Beginning of a New Journey





The dance shall continue ......

Pandava Caves Rivona Goa - 2

                After exploring the Pandava caves, we walked back to our guide's house in order to thank them for their generosity in accompanying us  to the caves. On exchanging information about our places visited, they revealed the presence of  another Pandava cave in this place and  gave us directions for the same. We thanked them and proceeded further to explore the next cave. We reached the Lord Shiva temple,  parked our vehicle and  inquired with an elderly person sitting inside the temple. He told us we had reached the right place and directed  us to the cave. 
Entrance to the Pandava Caves
           At the first look, we thought it could be ruined house, though we were wrong. The presence of  a "Havan Kund" (havan - a sacred ritual performed using fire; kund - pit) outside the cave indicated  that  Rishis or Monks may have lived here and performed 'Havan' or 'Homa' as a part of their daily chores. As we entered  the cave, a flight  of rock cut steps lead us to the central portion of the cave which had a  wonderful ceiling and an opening at its center for the entrance of light. There are two perennial springs originating from inside the cave which served as the main water sources  for the Rishis/Monks. The water currently is being used for irrigation  by the Local farmers. We found a  small carving of Lord Hanuman inside the cave.Though the historians associate this cave with the Buddhist Monks, the locals believe that the Pandavas resided here for sometime during their exile.
Cave Entry
 Rock Cut Steps
Natural Water Spring
Cave Ceiling
  Cave Interior
Lord Hanuman Carving
Natural Water Spring
Pandava Cave Complex
Altogether, it was a wonderful experience exploring the caves. 

Direction from Panajim: Panajim - NH17 - Margao - Take left turn - Quepem - Tilamol - Right turn - Rivona
Distance from Panajim: 65 km
Places to Visit Around: Usgalimal, Kurdi,  Surla, Canacona, Margao and many more.