Neolithic Ash Mounds of Kudatini, Bellary Karnataka

Our wish of visiting the Kudatini Ash Mound was long due, and somehow the plan did not materialize during any of our previous visits to this region. This time around, when we got chance to visit Bellary, we made sure to visit this place. Kudatini has always been a top choice for visit for two reasons - The Ash Mound and Lord Brahma temple. Early one morning, we started off from Bellary towards Kudatini and as we crossed Kudatini, we reached the Bellary Thermal Power Station, which was the noted landmark. Once we crossed the BTPS, a yellow board caught our attention and bang on, we are in front of the site of the ash mound. We found a place to park our vehicle and explored the place.
Ballari Thermal Power Station
Ballari Thermal Power Station
"The Ash-mound at Budikanama Pass on Ballari - Hospet road, near Ballari Thermal Power Station, is the largest among the surviving Neolithic period Ash-mound (3000- 1500 BCE) in South India. The mound represents pastoral society's ritual activity centre, including burial activity. A multi-legged burnt clay coffin known as Sarcophagus was excavated by Archaeologists from this site. The sarcophagus contained the mortal remains of a 7 year old young adult along with burial goods such as bi-chrome globular pots bearing graffiti marks. The earliest known symbolic writing known from the region is at 1500 years older than the written language in south India. Oldest written records issued by Emperor Ashoka are found near Kurugodu-Siriguppa region about 30 kilometers from here”, as per the information board put up here. Ash mounds are majorly concentrated in the central region of Karnataka and united Andhra Pradesh. There are many such sites that are in neglect and vanishing every day.  Many farmers believe this ash to be of high nutrition values to plants, providing all the major secondary nutrients and micro nutrients to the plants.
Archaeological Site 
Kudatini Ash Mound
Kudatini Ash Mound 
Hard Outer Surface of the Ash Mound 
There are various theories behind the Ash-mound formation. While none really give the correct explanation, locals believe them to be the burial of demons killed by various gods, linking it to epics such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Few archaeologists believe that once the pre-historic people decided to move to other places, the wastes/leftovers were gathered at a place and burnt. The ash being constantly exposed to sun light and rain has eventually hardened to form a strong and hard structure from outside. The softness of the ash can be felt when investigated carefully. Few other archaeologists believe that the mounds are a result of the continuously kept burning dungs or other waste materials in order to keep the wild animals away. But then, finding burial remains and other related artefacts  have proved to be challenging to the above theories. Nevertheless, until and after the exact reason has been known behind these ash mounds, the site needs to be well preserved and subjected to further studies. Sadly, the every now and then happening road expansions of the highway pose an additional threat to the site.
The Ash
The Young Archaeologist at Work
Related Posts : 

References:
1. The book "Hampi Parisarada Aadhimanavana NelegaLu" written by Dr. L. Srinivas 
2. Journeys Across Karnataka

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

In Search of Kanakagiri's Ashokan Edicts - 3

Following the guide's directions, we reached the base of the Lakshmi Narasimha hill. From hereon we started our climb to the top, where the edicts were supposed  to be present. We had to cross the path laid through dry thorny shrubs. It took us about 40 minutes to reach the top of this hill after which our guide took us towards the shelter. We were shocked to see that the entire area was vandalized  and there was no signs of any inscription as mentioned by  the guide. He too was surprised to see the entire area in this condition as he was sure of the presence of some  inscriptions on a  slab here, which  now was not be seen. We decided to explore the entire area with a hope to find some thing interesting.
Climb to Lakshmi Narasimha Hill 
Surviving the Thorny Shrubs 
Bird's Eye View of Lakshmi Narasimha Temple 
Carving of Vishnu's Feet 
Vandalised Mandapa 
But there was no luck in finding any edicts or clues regarding the same. We chose a different path to descend but the thorny shrubs and the warm sun added more pain during our descent. Our guide also mentioned about a ruined Venkateshwara temple situated close by. We decided to check it out and on reaching here, we realised that the temple has completely been vandalized owing to communal tensions during the 1970's. What ever remains today gives us a glimpse of the  grand temple that once stood here . The architecture resembled that of the Kanakachalapathi temple, also built here.  There are 2 beautiful small stone chariots here giving us the flavor of Vijayanagara Architecture. 
Stone Chariot of Kanakagiri 
Venkateshwara Temple
The last spot that we wanted to visit in Kanakagiri was the Venkatappana Baavi, a royal bath built by Venkatappa Nayaka. This royal bath has been artistically designed and is a feast for the eyes. We spent quite a good time exploring this well and admiring the architectural skills possessed by our forefathers. The sad part is that this well is in state of neglect and needs immediate attention. There is a popular local saying in this area that, "people with eyes must see Kanakagiri and those with with legs must see Hampi", implying that Kanakagiri temples are a delight to the eyes and one needs to walk about tirelessly to see the vast expanse of the ruined Hampi. Meanwhile, a friend of ours accompanied by his friend who is a local of Kanakagiri reached Venkatappana Baavi. The local person confirmed that he checked with a few others who are well versed with the history of Kanakagiri and confirmed to us that no such edicts as the ones we were in search of, exist here. Thus concluding our search of Kanakagiri's Ashokan Edicts, which still remains elusive. We spent sometime near a huge tank which was completely dry and finally bade a good bye to our friends and proceeded towards Bangalore. 
Venkatappana Baavi, Kanakagiri
Venkatappana Baavi, Kanakagiri
Dry Tank 
Sri Kanakachalapathi Temple 
Kanakagiri Fort Walls 
 The previous posts related to Kanakagiri's Ashokan edicts can be read here and here

MP DIaries: Chhatris of Shivpuri, A 20th century Wonder

Our next destination after Chanderi was Gwalior. As we had enough time, we wished to check out a few places on the way which included Datia and Shivpuri. We zeroed in on Shivpuri as we would also have a chance to visit the Madhav National Park on the way. The initial drive was on a single road until we reached Sirsod, wherefrom it was on the 4 laned NH 27.  We took a diversion following a sign board directing us towards Madhav National Park and drove for about 5 km only to realize that we were lost and had taken the wrong diversion. We returned to the highway and started driving towards Shivpuri and suddenly found another board (the right one this time) towards Madhav National Park! We inquired at the entrance of the national park only to realise that the safari and the entrance fee were insanely priced and decided to skip visiting the park. We drove ahead to check out the Royal Chhatris.
Chhatris of Shivpuri
Chhatri of Maharani Sakhya Rao Scindia 
Cenotaph of Shivpuri
 The Royal Chhatris complex has two beautiful and magnificent Marble Cenotaphs, one dedicated to the Scindia dynasty king Madho Rao Scindia and the other to his mother Maharani Sakhya Rao Scindia. We were in for a shock to see a horde of people there and realised most of them had come to celebrate the beginning of the New Year. We were in a dilemma to enter the complex premises owing to the huge gathering, but the Chhatris were so grand that we could not give it a miss. We entered the complex after paying nominal fee. The place is maintained by the local trust and seemed low on maintenance due to the crowd's littering.
Statue of Maharani Sakhya Rao Scindia 
Royal Seat 
Decked Up Entrance to Chhatri 
Chhatris of Shivpuri
Chhatri of King Madho Rao Scindia 
Door 
  The Maharaja Madho Rao Scindia Chhatri is was built between 1926 and 1932. This excellent white marble work with lot of floral design in Rajputana style. The architecture of both the Chhatris present here is a combination of Rajput and Islamic styles. The Jali work is quite intricate and exquisite. We sat on the beautiful seat laid in the garden and watched the sun go down. But the crowd was here deterrent and we decided to call it a day. Our drive to Gwalior on the highway was a nightmare due to the 4 lane work of the highway which was under progress.
Sunset in the Background of Chhatri of King Madho Rao Scindia 
Other Places of Interest: Madhav Vilas Palace, George's Castle, Bhadaiya Kund and so on.
Entrance Fee: Madhav National Park - Rs.100/- per head, Rs.1000/- per Vehicle for Safari (own vehicle to be used), Chhatris - Rs.10/-per head.
Distance from the nearby town: Shivpuri is a major town, about 110 km from Gwalior.
Accommodation: We didn't stay here, but there are many option best being MPSTDC tourist Village maintained by MP tourism.
Where to eat: Tourist village is the best option along with various other options.
References:
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: Jain Temples Budhi Chanderi, A lost Wonder

Every other artifact present at the ASI Museum of Chanderi was associated with the place of Budhi Chanderi, which increased our curiosity about the historical significance of this place. As Budhi Chanderi was only about 16 km from Chanderi, we decided to explore this place post lunch. Being much older than the town of Chanderi, Budhi Chanderi (Old Chanderi) is believed to be the town of Chaidnagar which finds its mention in the Puranas, signifying its antiqueness. The Old Chanderi lies inside the forested area and is believed to house more than 55 Jain and Hindu temples, most of which are in ruins. The ASI has collected more than 2500 artifacts from Budhi Chanderi and its surrounding areas, most of which are preserved at the ChanderiMuseum. The temples here are believed to have been built between 9th - 11th centuries by the Pratihara kings. 
The Jain Temple Complex, Budhi Chanderi
The Jain Temple Complex, Budhi Chanderi 
The drive to this place was pleasant and the winding roads only added to our excitement. We had enough company on the roads as it was the first day of New Year. We were welcomed by the ruins of fort walls and as we continued our drive, we reached a temple which seemed to be functional. We drove further to investigate the surroundings and found an ancient temple complex. My wife took the lead to check if this was the site we are on the lookout for. A flight of steps led to the entrance of the temple complex. On entering the complex, she noticed the presence of numerous temples enclosed inside the compound wall and very excitingly invited me and our little to come and witness the same.
Inside Jain Temple Complex, Budhi Chanderi 
Beauty in Ruins 
 The guide at the complex confirmed it to be Jain temple complex and the same was evident from the images and sculptures here. The architecture is similar to that of the Badoh Pathari Jain temple. Sadly, the ASI has repeated its shoddy restoration work here, with the walls resembling a jigsaw puzzle. Nevertheless, it has been successful in bringing back the temple complex to shape, for us to at least realize its grandeur. We thoroughly enjoyed exploring this temple complex. All the five temples here are dedicated to Jain Tirthankaras. After spending a good time, we decided to head on to our next destination after thanking and bidding a good bye to the care taker. He handed us a register in which we were supposed to enter the details of our visit and as we did it, we realized that we were the first registered visitors of the year 2017 to this place!
Intricately Carved Door Jamb 
Jain Tirthankara Parsvanatha
Jain Tirthankara Parsvanatha 
 PS: A new page has been added to our blog, which has a collection of our Vlogs. Click here to view.

MP Diaries: Chanderi Ashoknagar, A backpacker's Paradise

The last day of 2016 was quite eventful, long and hectic. A few places we visited around Bhopal and Vidisha were that of Sanchi, Udayagiri, Gyaraspur, Badoh - Pathari and Udaipur. Hereon, our next destination was Chanderi and as we were done for that day, we had to drive to Chanderi and halt for the night. Chanderi will always remain close to our hearts for various reasons which will become evident as the story progresses. After a light evening snack at Ganj Basoda, we were on our way to Chanderi which was about 130 km from here. Our quiet and uneventful ride was interrupted by a fox crossing the road! What a sight it was! Sadly, it didn't stay long and gave us no chance of capturing it on camera. We continued with our journey hoping to sight more wild life and lo! we spotted a Jackal couple enjoying their private moments on the road only to be disturbed by us. We stopped our vehicle in an effort to let them be and tried not to disturb them. This great moment lasted for a few minutes with the jackals vanishing into thick woods.  We reached Chanderi and found a room to settle down for that night. However, we had to drive ahead to Hotel Tana Bana maintained by MPSTDC for dinner. The hotel was booked priorly and decked up for the new year celebrations. We had our buffet dinner which was a part of the new year feast and rested for the night.
Chanderi Town
Our next morning began with a hunt for a place to have break fast and as we finalised on one, we had to reverse our vehicle to stop by that place. While doing so, a biker collided with our vehicle's rear end. Though not much damage occurred, the biker began to exaggerate the situation. Luckily, since it was not our mistake, many locals gathered around and began to assess the situation. They told the biker to check for any physical injuries or damage to the two wheeler and when they realised it was nothing major, they adviced us to leave the place immediately. The biker had no choice but to leave silently. We proceeded further in search of another place for break fast and thought that we were lucky to have overcome this situation rather easily as such instances are known to be an easy mode of exhorting money, with the victims falling prey to it.
Chanderi is a small town located in Ashoknagar district of Madhya Pradesh and famous for its sarees. The Chanderi saree also finds its mention in the great epic of Mahabharata, thus proving its antiqueness. There are many weaving centers across Chanderi today producing these sarees. The Bundela Rajputs built the existing Chanderi city in 11th century AD. There are various temples, Jain temples, Baolis and other structures here. Later in 13th century AD, the Malwa Sultans captured Chanderi from the Rajputs and refined and rebuilt the city, its forts and palaces. It changed hands many times between the Mughals, the Rajputs and the Marathas before finally falling into the hands of the British after which  the  Sindhias ruled till Indian Independence.
Bird's Eye View of Chanderi Town
Badal Mahal Darwaza: This beautiful gateway to the hill fort was built in 1460 by the Sultans of Malwa as a memorial to commemorate their victory over the Bundela Rajputs. The gateway consists of an arched entrance above which is another arch comprising of intricately carved Jali of geometrical designs and two gradually tapering circular towers. This place is very serene, thanks to the well maintained gardens surrounding it.
Badal Mahal Darwaza, Chanderi
Badal Mahal Darwaza 
Jama Masjid: This huge Friday mosque built around 15th Century has a spacious open court with a sanctuary in its west and arched cloisters in the north and south, with the eastern portion being damaged. The mosque is not associated with any minarets, making the structute quite unique. The entrance to the mosque has a few delicate carvings.
Jama Masjid, Chanderi
Jama Masjid 
ASI Museum: The museum is a big and modern building, housing various collections found during excavations in and around Chanderi. Photography is prohibited inside the Museum.
Chanderi Museum 
Koshak Mahal: This beautiful monument was built during the 15th century AD by the Sultans of Malwa. Only 3 storeys of this palace survive today,  which originally was a 7 storey palace. Built in Afghani style in the shape of the Greek Plus, it has four symmetrical divisions. The grandness of this place is limited to our imagination. The balconies in all directions adds to its grandeur.
Koshak Mahal, Chanderi
Koshak Mahal 
Jain Temple, Khandaragiri: This place has a beautiful 45 feet tall rock cut murti of the first Jain Tirthankara Rishabhnath, popularly known as Adinath. There are many cave temples in the surroundings.
Rock Cut Murti of Jain Tirthankara Rishabhnath
Kati Gati: This is the southern gateway to the city of Chanderi built by cutting solid rock, thus the name Kati Gati. There are a few inscriptions here that tell us about the construction of this gateway by the order of Jiman Khan in 1490 AD.
Kati Gati 
Chakla Baoli: It is believed that around 1200 stepped wells were built in Chanderi by the Chandela Rajputs and the Sultans of Malwa. Chakla Baoli is one such, built during 15th century by the Sultans and later additions to these were the two Chhatris built  by the Rajputs in end of 17th century.
Chakla Baoli, Chanderi
Chakla Baoli 
Purani Adalat (Old court): The Haveli of Bundela kings built in 17th century was later converted into a temple of justice, which was under use till independence.
Purani Adalat 
Madrasa (School): An old Madrasa here was built during 15th century by the Sultans to impart Islamic education to children.
Madrasa 
Chanderi Fort: The major tourist attraction here is the Chanderi fort built by Kirttipala, a Pratihara king in 11th century, due to which this place gets the name Kirttidurga. There are two tombs here, one dedicated to the renowned musician Baiju Bhawara who probably was the only singer to defeat Tansen, one of the greatest musicians in Akbar's court and the second is the Johar tomb dedicated to all the Rajput ladies who scarified their lives rather than being captured by Babur's Army.
Khooni Darwaza
Chanderi Fort
Chanderi Fort 
Other places of Interest: Jageshwari Temple, Parameshwar Lake, Shahzadi Ka Rauza, Shahi Madrasa, Singhpur Palace, Battisi Baoli, and many more.
Entrance fee: Entry is free
Distance from nearby town: 36 km from Lalitpur, 60 km from Ashoknagar.
Accommodation: We stayed at Hotel Shri Kunj which was quite a decent place for stay having various option for all types of travelers. This apart, there is a Hotel Tana Bana maintained by MPSTDC which  is also an equally good option and a PWD rest house.
Where to eat: Hotel Tana Bana is the only decent option along with various other road side eateries.
References:
1. The Guide to the Architecture of the Indian subcontinent by Takeo Kamiya.
2. RBS Visitors Guide India - Madhya Pradesh.
3. Chanderi.org

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