Showing posts with label the heart of incredible India. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the heart of incredible India. 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
 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
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.  
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 - Heliodorus Pillar, Vidisha - The Khamba Baba

The ASI care taker at Vijay Mandir, Vidisha gave us directions to the 'Heliodorus Pillar'. This site was included in our list of places to visit around  Bhopal. A five minute drive from Vidisha brought us to the Heliodorus pillar. The Heliodorus pillar is locally known as the 'Khamba Baba' and was erected in 150 BC by Heliodorus, a Greek ambassador to the court of Bhagabhadra from Takshashila. This pillar bears two inscriptions in Brahmi and Prakrit scripts. One of the inscriptions here records that this pillar was setup as a 'Garuda pillar' in the  honor of Lord Vasudeva (Vishnu). Heliodorus embraced Hinduism as his way of life, after being impressed with Lord Vasudeva. He called himself as 'Bhagavata', meaning a  follower of the Vaishnava sect. It is quite interesting to note that this  is the first recorded instance of a westerner being converted to Hinduism. This pillar resembles the Ashoka pillar, though much smaller in size and is located very close to Sanchi, which again speaks volumes about the religious tolerance that prevailed back then. The ASI has built a compound in order to to protect this pillar and also has appointed a care taker for its maintenance.
Heliodorus Pillar Vidisha
Heliodorus Pillar
Brahmi inscriptions
Brahmi Inscriptions
Prakrit Inscriptions
Heliodorus Pillar Vidisha
Entrance fee: Entry is free. 
Distance from nearby major town: 2 km from Vidisha.
Accommodation: There are some small lodges in Vidisha, but a better choice would be Gateway Retreat at Sanchi maintained by MPSTDC. 
Where to eat: There are plenty of options to eat in Vidisha. 
1. RBS Visitors Guide India, Madhya Pradesh

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

MP Diaries: Vidisha, A town lost in oblivion

After exploring the world heritage site of Sanchi followed by the caves of Udayagiri, our next destination was Vidisha, a town lost in oblivion.  As we were extremely hungry, we decided to break for a quick brunch on reaching the town of Vidisha. We zeroed in on a small eatery just at the entrance of the town and had a tummy full brunch of Poha with Kachori. Vidisha has its own place in the history of Central India right from the times of Samrat Ashoka, but sadly this place doesn't attract any tourists. We found out the way to 'Vijay Mandir', also popularly known as the 'Bijamandal' and reached there. The history of Vijay Mandir is rather unique and represents the historical affairs back then. The temple was initially built during 8th century AD and further improvised by the Paramara King Naravarman in 11th century AD.  Later, this temple underwent a series of destructive attacks between the 13th and 16th century AD finally falling into the hands of Aurangzeb, who brought down the temple until its platform and built a mosque during 1700 AD. The mosque was under worship till 1965, after which a ban was imposed on offering prayers here by the then chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Dr Dwarka Prasad Mishra as the ASI declared Bijamandal as a protected monument. However, an alternate arrangement was made for construction of a separate Idgah nearby. This place was first reported by Sir Alexander Cunningham, the director of ASI in 1874 who acknowledges the presence of Vijay Mandir, and its demolition by Aurangzeb who converted the temple into Bijamandal.
ASI Information Board 
Pathway to Bijamandal 
Bija Mandal, Vidisha
 Remains of the Huge Platform of Vijay Mandir
Dancers carved on the Platform
 The ASI has done a fair job in maintaining all the idols/sculptures found during excavations in the temple complex. However, it seems that a lot more history is hidden and needs to be further explored as this place was closely associated with Samrat Ashoka, Gupta Kings and the Paramara dynasty. Samrat Ashoka was the governor of Vidisha during his father Bindusara's rule. His first wife Devi was the daughter of a rich merchant of Vidisha. This place also played a significant role during the reign of Gupta kings, though there are no architectural references to prove the same. The place then rose back to prominence under the Paramara kings in the 11th century  AD. This temple originally is believed to have been massive in size, comparable with Konark's Sun Temple in Orissa. The same was quite evident from the huge platform of this temple. We enjoyed exploring Bijamandal and only wondered how grand the original temple would have been. A small baoli (step-well) belonging to the 8th century AD is situated in the temple complex. There are two exquisitely carved pillars at the entrance of the Baoli. We also spent some time exploring the ruins, which are kept  in a systematic manner inside the complex.
Bijamandal Mosque 
Inside the Mosque
Pillar Capital 
Baoli (Step-Well )
Exquisitely Carved Pillar 
Entrance fee: Entry is free. 
Distance from the nearby major town: Vidisha is a district head-quarter and  is about 55 km from Bhopal.
Accommodation: There are some small lodges here, but better options would be Gateway Retreat at Sanchi maintained by MPSTDC. 
Where to eat: There are plenty of options to eat here. 
2. Vidisha Municipal Site 

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

MP Diaries: Udayagiri caves Vidisha, The Valley of Gods

Our next destination for the day was Udaygiri/Udayagiri caves located near the city of Vidisha. A fifteen minute drive from Sanchi brought us to the caves of Udaygiri, one of the earliest Hindu cave temples in India, which are the finest example of Gupta art. Udaygiri caves were created between 4th and 5th Centuries AD by Chandragupta Vikramaditya after defeating the Shaks. This cave temple complex consists of twenty caves, of which two are dedicated to Jainism and the others to Hinduism. The proximity of the two sites of Sanchi and Udaygiri is proof to the peaceful coexistence of the three religions; Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism,  similar to other sites such as Ellora and Badami. There are many inscriptions found here that date from 401 AD to 1034 AD in various languages.
Udaygiri Caves
Udaygiri Caves 
We missed visiting Cave No.1 as it was located far away from the cluster of other caves.
Cave No.2 - This cave was empty.
Lord Ganesha
Cave No.3 - This cave is also known as Kumara Cave which consists of a  beautiful image of Lord Kartikeyan, the god of war.
Kumara Caves, Udaygiri Caves
Lord Kartikeyan
Cave No.4 - This cave is also known as Veena Cave, named so due to the presence of  a carving depicting two seated Veena players on its lintel. This cave also houses a very beautiful and rare idol of Ekamukhalinga (linga with one face) of  Lord Shiva.
Ekmukhalinga, Udaygiri Caves
 Ekamukhalinga form of Lord Shiva 
Cave No.5 - This cave is also known as Varaha Cave and contains one of the important sculptures of Udaygiri. A huge carving of Varaha (third incarnation of Lord Vishnu) is seen here, depicting the story of rescue of earth from the demon Hiranyaksha. The images of the three river goddesses of Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswathi are also carved here which is widely accepted to be one of the earliest depictions of them.
Lord Varaha , Udaygiri Caves
Lord Varaha
Udaygiri Caves Vidisha
Cave No.5 
Cave No.6 - This cave is also known as Sanakanika Cave. Carvings of Lord Ganesha is seen on the left panel along with the dwarapala. On the right panel of the cave are seen sculptures of Lord Narasimha and Goddess Mahishasura Mardhini along with the Saptamathrikas. The two dwarapalas are also beautifully depicted .
Mahishasura mardhini
Cave No.6
Cave No.7 - This cave is also know as Tawa Cave due to the flattened shape of its roof. The cave is devoid of any images except for a few inscriptions belonging to the Chandragupta era.
Tawa Cave 
Cave Nos.8 and 9 are empty.
Cave No.10 - This cave contains a damaged  idol resembling some form of Vishnu.
Cave No.11 - This cave is also known as Vamana Cave and contains carvings representing the story of Vishnu's fifth incarnation of Vamana.
Vamana, Udaygiri Caves
Vamana Avatar
Cave No.12 - This cave is also known as Narasimha Cave and houses a carving of the Lord Narasimha with two dwarapalas on its rock face.
Lord Narasimha 
Cave No.13 - This cave is also known as Sheshashayi cave as it  houses a long and beautiful carving depicting Sheshashayi, one of the forms of Lord Vishnu, where he is seen reclining on the serpent with a lotus emerging from his navel and Lord Brahma seated on the lotus. An image probably of Chandragupta II, showing his devotion to Lord Vishnu is also carved.
Lord Sheshashayi
Cave Nos.14,15,16 and 17 are mostly empty with only a few inscriptions.
Cave No.18 - The walls of this cave contain carvings of images of Lord Ganesha on the left panel and Mahishasura Mardini (slaying of the buffalo demon Mahishasura by Goddess Durga) on the right panel. Cave Nos.2 to 18 are situated  in a cluster.
Cave No. 18
Cave No. 19 - This cave  is also known as Amrita Cave owing to the depiction of Samudra Manthana, the great event of churning of the ocean of milk to obtain the nectar of immortality, on the lintel of its entrance. This cave is very big and spacious, with many inscriptions and is situated about 500 m from the cave cluster. It also had a mukhamantapa with four pillars which  sadly lies in ruins today.
Samudra Manthana on the Lintel of Cave No. 19
Sanskrit Inscriptions
Cave No. 20 - This cave is also known as the Jain Cave and supposedly houses a beautiful idol of Jaina along with other carvings. The entrance to this cave remained closed due to some interior structural damage. One must climb a steep flight of steps in order  to reach this cave. 
River Halali Viewed From Cave No. 20
Entrance fee: Entry is free.
Distance from nearby major town: 57 km from Bhopal and 5 km from Vidisha.
Accommodation: The only option  here for accommodation is the Jungle resort maintained by MPSTDC, though one can stay overnight at Bhopal and reach Udaygiri the next morning. 
Where to eat: Stop by at the Jungle resort for food, alternatively one can travel to Vidisha for better options. 
1. Information boards put up by Madhya Pradesh Tourism. 

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. 
1. Sanchi - World Heritage Series by ASI
2. Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent - Takeo Kamiya
3. Upenn