#HindustanKaDil Trip Diaries

My Travel Diary revisiting the memoirs from my trip to Madhya Pradesh which included Gwalior, Jhansi, Orchha, Khajurao, Ken Gharial Wildlife Sanctuary, Bandhavgarh, Bhedaghat & Jabalpur in October 2021.

Day 1 (9th October 2021)

We boarded the Spice Jet flight to Gwalior at around 10 AM in the morning and bid adieu to Kolkata for Durga Puja vacations. The flight was a small aircraft (which offered excellent views of the mainland below) and after hovering around Gwalior Airport for nearly an hour (god knows why!) we landed at around 2 PM. The Airport was so small that even a bus stand would look larger in front of it.

After a short drive in the scorching heat, we checked into our hotel, "The Central Park" situated on Madhav Rao Scindia Marg. The hotel boasted of hosting the Indian Cricket team years ago and was one of the best mid-range hotels in the town. Famished severely after not having anything since the morning, we freshened up and straight away landed at the hotel’s restaurant. After gobbling up some lovely delicacies (the food was excellent!) we hired a taxi and marched off towards the first destination of the day ~ Mausoleums of Mohammad Ghaus and maestro Mian Tansen.

Mausoleum of Mohammad Ghaus

Situated amidst the hustling bazaar, below the shadow of massive Gwalior fort, the mausoleums were an oasis of serenity and peace. Situated within lush ornate rose gardens, the 16th-century mausoleum with hexagonal towers housed the tomb of Sufi saint, Muhammad Ghaus. The ornate Jali carvings, fading frescoes along with miraculous tales of the Sufi saints were highlights of the mausoleums. The quaint environment along with the wafts of fragrant incense along with beautiful hums of birds made this place a sanctuary of serenity.

The beautiful Jali work and fading ceiling paintings at the Mausoleum

Just next to the mausoleum below the shade of an Imli (tamarind tree) was the tomb of Mian Tansen, the maestro par excellence. It was a very emotional moment for me, revering the tomb of one of the best musicians the world will ever see. Folklore states that the leaves of the imli tree sweetens ones voice; while I was tempted to do so, I was skeptical having something off ones mausoleum !

Sun Temple, Gwalior

Bidding goodbye to the tombs, we made our way to the Sun Temple, constructed by the Birla's in 90's. A replica of the Konark Sun Temple, the beautiful gardens house a number of peacocks. The highlight of the temple was the melodious kirtan by the pujaris of the temple and the devotion of the guard.

As the sun went down, we headed off towards the Baija Taal (lake) ,built by Baija Baj, of the Scindia Royal family. After a couple of minutes of boating and snacking, we headed off towards Sarafa Bazaar (a big letdown- nothing much to offer) and later Chowpatty for some more snacks. Closing the day with a rich Belgian hot chocolate (a must try) at Café Bistro 57, situated at a stone’s throw from our hotel, I await enriching experiences at the massive Gwalior Fort complex tomorrow.

At Baija Taal

Day 2 (10th October 2021)

After a super sumptuous breakfast (esp. the delicious chole kulche) at the hotel, we started the day by driving to the towering Gwalior fort perched upon a hilltop whose history encompasses centuries. According to a local legend, the fort was built by a local king named Suraj Sen in 3rd century CE. He was cured of leprosy, when a sage named Gwalipa offered him the water from a sacred pond, which now lies within the fort.

Gwalior Fort

With the help of a not-so-well-versed travel guide we visited the beautifully labyrinthine Man Singh Palace. Built by Raja Mansingh Tomar in 15th CE inside the Gwalior Fort, the palace displays beautiful but ruined architecture. With blue ceramic tiles at the front façade and an impressive structure the Man Singh Palace reflects the true colours of the Tomar dynasty. We visited the large rooms / labyrinthine chambers of the palace wherein some were venues for musical concerts, while the others were for the royal ladies to sit, bathe and enjoy the music. Sadly, all were infested with bats and their overpowering dropping stench.
Our group at Gwalior Fort

At Gwalior Fort

From the Man Singh Palace, we moved on to visit the ruins of Karan Singh Palace, Jahangir Palace and Shahjahan Palace in the scorching heat. From the top Jharokhas we saw views of the Gwalior city as well as the beautiful Gujari Mahal built by Man Singh for his beloved queen Mrignayani. After the palaces, we visited the ASI museum which housed multiple Jain images from the mediaeval ages.
Jain idols at ASI Museum, Gwalior Fort

Marching ahead, we visited the beautifully carved but ruined twin temples - Sahastrabahu Temples, fondly known as Saas Bahu Temples built in 1093 by King Mahipal of the Kachchhapaghata dynasty. Originally housing both the deities, Shiva and Vishnu , the latter was shifted to a smaller shrine nearby attributed to the Bahu. Here too, the bats had overtaken the temple.
Sahastrabahu Temples, Gwalior

I was literally drained off but still mustered up all my energy and visited the Gurdwara Data Bandi Chorh Sahib, which is associated with the imprisonment of the Sikh Guru Har Gobind Sahib in Gwalior Fort and his celebrated release in which he managed to win the freedom of 52 Rajas who had long suffered imprisonment in the Fort. Extremely drained off due to the scorching heat, I didn't have any energy left in my body. (I could funnily recall the Glucose ad where the sun was sucking away all the energy - I even didn't have the energy to click any pics at the Gurudwara).

Teli ka Mandir, Gwalior

From the Gurudwara, we visited the Teli ka Mandir, built in 750 CE as per the most recently discovered inscriptions. The temple had an atypical design as it integrated the architectural elements of the Nagara style, Eastern Deul style as well as the Dravidian gopuram superstructure. There were a lot of Jain idols lying in the compound outside Teli Ka Mandir which were recovered from a nearby abandoned Jain temple.
57 ft. tall idol of Adinath Bhagwan at Siddhachal caves, Urvahi Gate, Gwalior Fort

Finally deciding to leave the Gwalior fort, we made our way to the Urvahi gate of the fort which is flanked by two Jain idols dating back to 1453 CE. Heading downwards towards the city, we saw the mesmerizing Siddhachal Caves (South west group) of Jain rock cut idols just outside the fortifications. These are the oldest Jain monuments in Gwalior from the post-Gupta period dating back to 6th to 8th CE. Sadly these idols were badly ruined and maintained even pathetically (with nala water running on the sides of the idols).  Also saw the beautiful idol of Trishala mata in her sleeping posture. Just a few metres away from Siddhachal caves group, was another group of rock cut Jain idols in pristine form. After witnessing these massive Jain idols, I thankfully felt a rush of energy which had previously been drained due to scorching heat !

Sculpture of Trishala Mata depicting the Chyavan (Garbha) Kalyanak of Lord Mahavir

Second group of Jain Caves at Urvahi Gate

After a short drive in our (thankfully air-conditioned) car, we recovered some energy and reached the bewitchingly beautiful 19th century Jai Vilas Palace built by Jayajirao Scindia and home to the Scindia family. A fine example of European architecture, the palace has been partly converted into a museum which houses the elegant furniture, drawing / study rooms, bed rooms and bath rooms, just as they were lavishly decorated for the royal family. Various items fill many rooms: cut glass furniture, stuffed tigers and a ladies-only indoor swimming pool. The dining room displays a model silver train that carried alcohol for the guests. In contrast to the western style dining room, a completely Indian style dining room is also preserved. However, the highlight of the palace was the Durbar Hall which is decorated with gilt and gold furnishings and adorned with a huge carpet and 3500 kg gigantic chandeliers with 250 light bulbs each.

At Jai Vilas Palace, Gwalior

Darbar Hall with massive chandeliers at Jai Vilas Palace

Inside Jai Vilas Palace

It was already late evening and as we didn't have a morsel of food since breakfast, we headed off to a local eatery for a quick replenishment and then made our way towards the Gopachal Atishay Kshetra popularly referred to as "Ek Patthar Ki Bawadi" group of Jain rock cut idols. After a short barefoot climb of uneven steps, we reached the group which includes 26 caves in a row spanning about half a mile dating back to 15th century CE. I climbed on top of the caves to have a breathtaking view of the Jain idols which was worth the effort. The only undamaged idol of Lord Parshwanath was being worshipped while the others were badly damaged by Babur in 1527 after conquering Gwalior as mentioned in his memoirs. Thus, most of the Jain statues at Urvahi gate and at Gopachal were damaged.
Colossal Jain idols at Gopachal Caves

With the sun setting at Gopachal, we headed back towards the Gwalior fort for the last event - the Light and Sound show. The Gwalior fort wore a royal look illuminating the Man Singh palace with various multicolour lights . The baritone of Amitabh Bachchan as Gopachal, the narrator added life to the ambiance and depicted the gradual and continuous architectural development of Gwalior Fort over several centuries. The highlight of the light and sound show for me was the beautiful depiction of the love story of Raja Man Singh and Mrignayani, the horrors of Jauhar as well as the melodious history of Tansen.
The Light & Sound Show at Gwalior Fort

Finally calling it a day, I came to know about a 200 year Shwetambar Jain temple opposite Topi Bazar which I will hopefully be able to visit tomorrow before heading off to newer adventures.

Day 3 (11th October 2021)

The day started very beautifully. We woke up quite early, donned our puja clothes and headed to Shri Chintamani Parshwanath Shwetambar Jain temple about which we got to know yesterday. After a short drive to Sarafa Bazar, we finally located the temple just opposite Topi Bazar (we could not find it earlier as it was wrongly pointed on Google Maps behind the railway station).

At Shri Chintamani Parshwanath Jain Temple

In the early 18th Century, 550 residents from Medta came down to Gwalior in 2000+ bullock carts and settled there. These businessmen along with Jatanchand Sacheti constructed this grand temple in 1792 AD on the land donated by the then Maharaja, Mahadji Rao Scindia. The ancient idol of Mulnayak Shri Chintamani Parshwanath Bhagwan, was carried all the way from Medta and installed in Gwalior. The pillars, frescoes and the Pattas have been gilted in 4.5 kg of pure gold ! Even the Trigada on which Snatra Puja is conducted was designed very differently using wood. Doing Puja in this beautifully divine Jinalay was an enriching experience for me.
Mulnayak Shri Chintamani Parshwanath Bhagwan

Back at the hotel, we had a sumptuous breakfast, and traveled some 100 kilometers to leave Madhya Pradesh, enter Uttar Pradesh and reach the historical city of Jhansi exactly at noon. Interestingly, we fueled our car in Uttar Pradesh and not in countless petrol pumps we passed through in Madhya Pradesh as Diesel was a bit expensive there. We crossed Datia and Sonagiri on the way, both having a lot of heritage, but due to paucity of time, we stopped directly at Jhansi. Recalling the lines by Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, we made our way towards the Jhansi fort ~

"बुंदेले हरबोलों के मुँह हमने सुनी कहानी थी, खूब लड़ी मर्दानी वो तो झाँसी वाली रानी थी."
At Jhansi Fort

Built on a large hilltop called Bangira, the construction of the Jhansi fort has been ascribed to the Bundela ruler of Orchha, Veer Singh Deo in 1613. However, it was the daring resistance and bravery of Manikarnika Lakshmi Bai that has made Jhansi, a household name. We visited all the major spots in the fort accompanied by a guide who was busy pleasing the local DM who had joined our guided tour in the midst of a survey of the fort (as PM Modi was supposed to visit Jhansi on 19th November).

Our Heritage Tent at Betwa Retreat, Orchha

 After visiting the ramparts of the fort, we left Jhansi and after a short drive of 45 minutes we re-entered Madhya Pradesh and reached Orchha. After checking into our beautiful luxury tents at "Betwa Retreat", on the banks of Betwa river we found out that Jain food was not available in its restaurant. Therefore, after a long search for a vegetarian restaurant, we finally had a late lunch and visited the Orchha fort complex.

Orchha Fort Complex

The historic fort of Orchha, was founded in the 16th century by the Bundela Rajput Chief, Rudra Pratap. The ancient fort seemed frozen in time, with its many palaces. However, the monuments failed to retain their original grandeur. We visited notable monuments inside the palace like the Raja Mahal, Sheesh Mahal and the beautiful Jahangir Mahal. The establishment of the Jahangir Mahal dates back to the 17th century A.D. when the ruler of the region Vir Singh Deo built the structure as a symbol of warm reception of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir, during the latter’s visit to the city.

Jahangir Mahal

After numerous photoshoots at Jahangir Mahal, we left the Orchha fort and visited the towering Chaturbhuj temple overlooking the fort. The temple was originally built to house an image of Shri Ram, as the chief deity, which was later installed in the Ram Raja Temple. At present an image of Radha Krishna is worshiped in the temple.
Chaturbhuj temple

From Chaturbhuj temple, we rushed to visit the memorial Chattris (cenotaphs) only to find them closed. If time would permit we would try to visit them tomorrow before leaving Orchha. We did speed boating on Betwa river and witnessed a beautiful sunset behind the Chattris.
Sunset on Betwa river

At around 8 PM we finally managed to enter Ram Raja temple, the only temple in India where Shri Ram is worshiped as a king and that too in a palace. The legend runs that there was tussle between King Madhukar Shah Deo who was a Krishna devotee and his queen Ganeshkunwari, who was a Ram devotee, which resulted in her leaving for Ayodhya till she returned with Ramji. The Rani performed severe penance, throwing herself in the Sarayu river in desperation, till Ramji himself appeared agreeing to accompany her to Orchha. She returned after agreeing to 3 conditions laid down by Shri Ram , one of them being Shri Ram presiding over the Orccha state. Thus, Shri Ram is worshipped as a king at the temple. After finally managing darshan with countless devotees (amidst power cuts), we called it a day and now await further destinations tomorrow.

At Raja Ram Temple

Day 4 (12th October 2021)

Waking up today was a bit difficult. The constant travel and lack of sleep had taken a toll on the body. But I had to remind the groggy bit of myself that a wanderer cannot be a tourist, so I kicked myself out of sleep and got up early to visit the Chhatris (Cenotaphs) which we had missed yesterday.
At the Orchha Chhatris

After a short walk from our hotel following the course of Betwa river, we reached the Chhatris. At 8 AM, me and Vishakha were the first visitors of the day. The guard didn't let us in, as tickets had to be purchased from the Orchha Fort complex which was more than a kilometer away! I pestered the guard and after a few moments he gave up and asked for double entry fee. Seeing no other option, I agreed; but somehow he had a change of heart and let us in, at original fee.
At the Orchha Chhatris

A few moments later Jayu joined us and one by one we explored all the Chhatris. These Chhatris situated amidst well laid gardens stood like silent sentinels of history on the banks of the river Betwa. Even though the historic landscape of Orchha is dotted with majestic palaces and temples, the cenotaphs have a sepulchral allure of their own. The chirping of birds, the quaint breeze and the silent murmurs of Betwa made the memorials magical. Two words - Peace and tranquility can be described for the Chhatris. 14 in total, these funeral monuments were built to immortalize the rulers of the Bundelkhand dynasty from the early 16th to the late 18th century and were constructed in an amalgamation of Mughal and Rajput influences. However, their upkeep was not up to the mark and these regal monuments were completely infested with cobwebs and bats from inside. After completing our tour of Chhatris, we went back to hotel for breakfast post which we drove for 3 hours straight to reach Khajurao by 1 pm.
Orchha Chhatris

Instead of checking into our hotel, we directly went to visit the famed Western group of Temples. At the gates, we were fortunate enough to meet Mr. Prateek Jain, a highly knowledgeable Heritage walk specialist. With his valuable insights we started our exploration of Khajurao. The temples at Khajuraho were built during the Chandela dynasty in ~8th - 10th century CE. Out of 85 (as per Ibn Batuta's accounts) only about 25 temples remain; they fall into three distinct groups and belong to two different religions – Hinduism and Jainism. The temples are famous for its craftsmanship that consist of splendid demonstrations of fine sculptures and exceptional architectural skill, making them one of the most stunning UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India. The temples display the originality and high quality of Nagara-style temple architecture and display the pinnacle of temple architectural development in northern India. Built in sandstone, each temple is elevated from its environs by a highly ornate terraced platform, or jagati, on which stands the body, whose sanctum is topped by a tower, or shikhar, symbolizing Mount Kailash. Of the surviving temples, six are dedicated to Shiva, eight to Vishnu and his avatars, one to Sun god, and 3 being Jain temples. All temples, except one (Chaturbhuja) face the sunrise – another symbolic feature that is predominant in all the temples.
The Lakshmana Temple

After this initial explanation by our heritage walk specialist, we went to explore the Lakshmana Temple built by Yashovarman (also known as Lakshavarman) in 10th CE. Hundreds of carvings were patiently explained by Prateekji in detail and it took us more than an hour just to understand the outer periphery of the temple ! The stunning carvings of nymphs, royals, deities, commoners depicting erotic postures and everyday life were just mind-blowing!. I don't have words to explain the rich heritage and the deep history left by our ancestors. Every sculpture and the history / logic behind it left me in awe.
The erotic sculptures

The erotic sculptures displayed the tantric sexual practices - " संभोग से समाधी " (by awakening Chakras and Kundalini). This also showed that our ancient tradition treated sex as an essential and proper part of human life and not as a taboo. However, these sculptures are placed on the outer walls symbolizing the material world on the outside and moksha inside the sanctum. After Lakshmana temple, we visited notable temples like Kandaria Mahadev, Jagdamba, Chitragupta, Vishvanath, Varah and other smaller shrines; each having a rich sculptural heritage. I really couldn't understand how time flew and how the architectural splendor of Khajurao had moved me.
Our group at Kandaria Mahadev Temple

From the western group, we moved on towards the eastern group of temples which housed 3 Jain temples apart from Brahma, Javari and Vaman temple. The Jain temples housed ancient and miraculous idols of Shri Shantinath bhagwan, Shri Adinath Bhagwan and Shri Parshwanath Bhagwan. During the Chandela rule, many towns in Bundelkhand, including Khajuraho, were home to large and flourishing Jain communities (especially rich traders) and cohabited peacefully with Vaishnavites and Shaivites. Even some Hindu temples featured symbolic iconography of Tirthankars on their outer walls out of respect.
Shri Parshwanath Bhagwan Jain Temple at Khajurao

The Parshwanath Bhagwan temple inscription houses the famous magic square which houses one of the oldest known 4×4 magic squares. This magic square contains all the numbers from 1 to 16. The sum of the numbers in every horizontal row, every vertical column and the two diagonal rows is 34.We also witnessed the lavish and exquisite carvings on the outer walls of Parshwanath temple and Adinath temple. The Shantinath bhagwan temple houses a 15 ft idol of Shri Shantinath Bhagwan which faced desecration but the idol remained unharmed due to miraculous attack by honey bees on the invaders.

The interiors of Parshwanath Temple

As the sun was about to set, we rushed to visit the Southern group of temples housing the Dulhadev and Chaturbhuj temple. There is so much to write but words fall short to describe the architectural magnificence of Khajuraho. Calling it a day, we bid adieu to our guide Mr. Jain who enriched my day with his beautiful explanation. Finally we checked into our hotel, Clarks Khajurao at night and after a hot bubble bath, I called it a day and await newer experiences tomorrow.

At Southern group of temples with our guide, Mr. Prateek Jain

Day 5 & 6 (13th & 14th October 2021)

Not everything goes according to the plan; such is life. The last two days have reiterated this fact through this trip. Yesterday, we had planned to visit Panna National Park post our checkout from our hotel in Khajuraho; However we came to know that all tourist destinations in MP are either closed or only operate only till noon on Wednesdays. As no safaris were available in Panna, we decided to have a quick getaway to Raneh Falls situated inside the Ken Gharial Wildlife Sanctuary before it got closed by midday.
Our abode at Khajurao - Clarks

After a forty five minute drive from our hotel in Khajuraho, we reached the gates of Ken sanctuary just 20 minutes before the clock struck 12 (also saw a gecko crossing the road on the way). We thankfully obtained our entry permits well before time so that we could have a substantial time to witness the beauty of Raneh Falls.

The majestic Raneh Falls flowing through the Canyon

After traveling 5 kilometers inside the gate we reached the spot from where Raneh falls and the rock formation could be seen in full view. Dubbed the Grand Canyon of India, we witnessed the geological beauty as well as the impressive kaleidoscopic view offered by the Raneh Falls. Our guide informed that this canyon came into existence due to a volcanic eruption which took place in the prehistoric era. We saw the falls along with the surrounding canyon which has five different kinds of igneous rocks - green dolomite, black basalt, brown quartz, red Jasper and finally pink coloured granite. Due to the extensive canyon formation, the Ken river finds it difficult to navigate the course and has to continuously drop down from higher elevations, giving birth to small waterfalls as a result in numerous gorges which enhance the scenic value of this place. However, the primary attraction was the Raneh - the biggest waterfall which is fed directly by River Ken. After an hour long excursion at Raneh, we returned back to our hotel at Khajuraho (which thankfully accepted our request for a late checkout).
Massive rock formations at Raneh

At around 3 PM, we left for a 300 km - 6 to 7 hour drive to Bandhavgarh. However, after an hour or so, the moment we reached the outer limits of Panna town, a car moving ahead of us got stuck in a road crater and despite our driver applying the brakes on time, our car crashed with the one moving ahead with force landing a huge blow. Our car had suffered extensive damage from front; however thankfully none of us were injured. We eventually found a suitable mechanic who took nearly four hours to repair the damages. In the meanwhile, we spent our time at a local hotel cum restaurant at Panna whose staff were generous enough to let us sit in their restaurant and gave us complimentary food as well after we completed our lunch cum dinner. At around 8 PM our car was finally repaired (however the air-conditioning system still remained faulty) and we drove non stop to reach Bandhavgarh minutes after midnight. Dead tired, I dozed off the minute my head landed on the pillow.
Sunrise at Bandhavgarh

The next morning we woke up at 4:30 AM as we had an early safari from one of the core zones of Bandhavgarh named Khitauli. After some formalities and verification at the orientation centre, our keep and guide came to receive us and took us to the Khitauli zone. Braving the chilly winds we spotted a deer even before we entered the Khitauli gate. Once inside the wilderness, we spotted animals like Sambar deer, barking deer, groups of spotted deer, a domesticated elephant, langurs and birds like laping, grey storks and jungle sparrow. However large carnivores like the leopards and tigers remained elusive

Our Safari

Our guide took us to the deepest areas of the forest, the watering holes (where we spotted fresh tiger pug marks) and even tracked the warning calls of spotted deer. Twice, we felt the tiger close to us. The tension had been built up; there were constant warning calls by deer - all the jeeps had lined up to catch a glimpse of the elusive King of the jungle. But his majesty was in no mood to appear in front of us and remained hidden in the deep foliage of the jungle. After four and half hours of safari, we gave up all hopes and left the forest. My earlier safari experiences in Ranthambore were quite different as I had spotted many more animals including the tigers easily. Bandhavgarh was however, a dampener. After the safari we checked into our hotel, relaxed by the pool, had sumptuous food, enjoyed a bonfire and called it a day.

Bonfire !

Day 7 (15th October 2021)

After our tryst at Bandhavgarh, we drove towards Bhedaghat near Jabalpur which was 300 km away. However, due to closures on the highways (due to ongoing repair works) we missed the main way and had to take several detours which extended our route by 100 kms more. After a nearly 5 hour long drive in heat, we reached Bhedaghat which was 26 km away from Jabalpur.
At Chaushath Yogini Temple, Bhedaghat

Our first stop at Bhedaghat was the ancient Chaushath Yogini Temple which is situated on a hilltop above the river Narmada. After a steep climb of more than 100 stairs, we reached the temple complex which is one of the largest of the circular yogini temples and has a covered walkway with 81 cells for yoginis around the inside of its circular wall. I learnt that Yogini is a lady attendant of goddess who eliminates illusion with fiery passion through liberation and insight. The temple was built early in the 11th Century AD by King Yuvaraja II, of the dynasty of the Kalachuris. After circumambulating the yoginis, we visited the Gauri Shankar temple in the middle of the compound dedicated to Shiva and Parvati, in their marriage posture. This temple was built 200 years later by Queen Alhanadevi whose inscription is found on a remote slab. I also saw an ancient damaged idol of an unknown figure dating back to Kushan era dating back to 1st CE. Witnessing such amazing heritage was a treat and it took me back in time with its unmatched artistry.

The beautiful ancient idols of yoginis

After visiting the Chausath yogini temple, we climbed down the stairs and met my kalyan mitra Shri Chiragbhai Gala and his friend Hardikbhai who had come down from Jabalpur. Despite in the middle of Ayambil Oli tapasya, Chiragbhai had taken up the responsibility of our stay and travel at Jabalpur. (P.S. Shri Chirag bhai is one of the most humblest, kindest and purest souls I have ever met. He is a deeply spiritual person and at a young age, he has constructed two beautiful jinalays Sarak villages Jharkhand/ West Bengal).

Narmada flowing through Marble rocks

Shri Chirag bhai and Hardik bhai then took us to the famed boating at Marble rocks. After climbing down a flight of stairs to the ghat, we purchased our boating tickets and boarded our boat. It was a mesmerizing experience to witness the marble rocks adjoining the graceful Narmada River. The white marbles are predominantly rich in magnesium and are closer in hardness to soap stone. This softness allows them to be carved. The area also contains blue and brown colored marble. The soaring white marble rocks and their formations, magically changed shapes as we sailed along the river. The boatman regaled us with a witty description based on his imagination and explained about vicinity in the creative way. After watching a glorious sunset over the marble rocks we reached back to the banks of Narmada and headed towards Dhuandhar falls, the prime attraction of the day.

Boat ride at Marble Rocks

This trip to Dhuandhar was envisaged 5 years earlier with my cousins Jay and Juhi and finally the same was materialised today. It was a very special moment for me witnessing the grandiose of Dhuandhar waterfalls in full might from the cable car which we got to visit due to special requests by Chirag bhai and Hardikbhai as we had missed it's timing by a whisker.
Breathtaking views of Dhuandhar falls from Cable car ride

The Narmada, making its way through the Marble Rocks which we had visited earlier, narrows down and then plunges in a waterfall named as Dhuandhaar. The plunge, which creates a bouncing mass of mist, is so powerful that its roar could be heard from a far distance. After the cable car ride, we went near the falls, enjoyed it's milky falls and took countless photographs !

After an hour or so, I bid adieu to Dhuandhar and took an ounce of the holy water of Narmada and poured it over my head. I was deeply fascinated by the Narmada after reading the book Tatvamasi and the movie Rewa. The sacred Narmada is worshipped as Narmada maiyya or Rewa. One of the five holy rivers of India, it is the only one which has the tradition of being circumambulated from source to sea and back, on a pilgrimage or yatra. The journey usually starts at the river’s source at Amarkantak in the Maikal Hills in Madhya Pradesh, goes along its southern banks, all the way to its mouth at Bharuch in Gujarat. Being the longest west-flowing river, the Narmada parikrama is a formidable spiritual exercise and challenge—an incredible journey of about 2,600 km undertaken by millions of devotees every year.

At Dhuandhar falls

We also purchased a lot of marble souvenirs from the local shops in Bhedaghat before visiting Chiragbhai's house for a sumptuous, filling and delicious dinner. The hospitality offered by Chiragbhai's family was unmatchable. Finally after visiting Dhuandhar, an urge was satiated. As if a dream had come true. As if a wish had got fulfilled.

Day 8 (16th October 2021)

On the last day of our trip, Shri Chiragbhai took us to the beautiful and the most ancient Shwetambar Jinalay at Jabalpur dedicated to Shree Shitalnath Bhagwan built by Shri Nirmalchand Bhura two centuries ago. Ancient pratimas of mulnayak Shri Parshwanath Bhagwan, Shri Sahastrafana Parshwanath Bhagwan (excavated a few years ago) and a 1500 year ancient panchdhatu tri-tirthi adorn the temple. Amidst the beautiful carvings, the temple looked ethereal.

Shri Shitalnath Bhagwan Jinalay at Sarafa Bazaar

We did puja at the Jinalay after which Chiragbhai took us to the Hanumantal Digambar Jain Bada Mandir which houses several images from the Kalachuri period (10-12th century), including an ornately crafted idol of Lord Adinath. The pratimaji of Prabhu Adinath was so beautiful that words failed to describe it's divine glory. I was blessed doing darshan of such an ancient and beautiful pratimaji.

The divine pratimaji of Shri Adinath Bhagwan at Hanumantal, Jabalpur

Afterwards we went to Chirag bhai's home for a filling and delicious breakfast. Chiragbhai's parents bestowed us with so many gifts! Sadharmik Bhakti par excellence - we had so much to learn from them!!! Post our breakfast, we started our Jabalpur tour by visiting the Rani Durgavati Sanghralay (Museum) located near the Bhavartal Garden. Apart from the various galleries, the museum houses countless beautiful Jain idols excavated from Jabalpur and nearby regions. The rich Jain heritage left me in awe!
Jain idols at Rani Durgavati Museum, Jabalpur

After our visit to the museum, we went to visit the Madan Mahal palace in Deotal. After a steep and arduous climb, we reached the top of the hill where the fortress is situated. Constructed during the era of the Gond Dynasty, Madan Mahal was built in the 11th century as a watchtower. It has a close association with Rani Durgavati and her son Madan Mohan, after whom the palace is named. This fort, though not an architectural marvel in terms of its architecture, but is a magnificent example of the ancient monuments that were built in the ancient times. We enjoyed scenic views of Jabalpur from the top of the fort and clicked many snaps.

At Madan Mahal

Near the fort we also visited the Balancing rock which is situated close to the fort. A natural wonder, the Balancing Rock is a delicately balanced eroded volcanic rock formation. Although it looks precariously positioned, it has withstood earthquakes of magnitude up to 6.5 on the Richter scale. The point of contact between the two rocks is only 6 sq inches. It is believed that it is impossible to disturb the balance of this rock.
Balancing Rocks

After witnessing this natural geological beauty, Chirag bhai took us to visit the beautiful Bargi Dam which is situated at an hour's drive from Jabalpur. Before the sun set for the say we took a cruise in the reservoir. However the blaring sounds of crass music and the innocuous acts of the locals disturbed the peace and tranquility of the place. After Bargi we bid farewell to Jabalpur, which marked an end to this memorable trip to the heart of India. I would definitely miss the moments enjoyed here especially those spent with Chiragbhai.

At Bargi with Chiragbhai


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