Too soon

Most trips to any number of locales will have unintended or unforeseen complications. In our two month journey through India we experienced several hiccups. Perhaps some could have been anticipated, and I will readily admit that Chelle was prepared in ways that I was not. She did significantly more advanced prep work in the weeks leading up to our departure. My “fly by the seat of the pants” style of travel caused a few issues, which ultimately led to more expensive transportation issues than was necessary. Conversely, it was impossible to predict the currency demonetization that hampered our travels considerably.

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Indians demonstrated a generosity of spirit that I have witnessed in prior trips to developing nations. To be on the receiving end of such kindness from some who have so little material wealth is epically humbling. The level of gratitude for just taking a moment to say hello, to smile, to buy a trinket or some chaat was a testimony to the enduring human spirit. The concern that regular Indians demonstrated to us by making sure we reached the right train station or bus stop. The time I needed to get a bus ticket and the entire busload of passengers glued to the window…wanting to make sure I was in the correct wicket. A family sharing samosa on the train, the young university student who explained the different train classes, the stranger who followed me for 6 blocks to give me a wad of rupees that I dropped. The co-owner of our hotel in Darjeeling that personally made us dinner when we were under the weather.

I have posted previously of the wealth of Indian being it’s people. It is with a heavy heart that we were in our last thirty-six hours of our trip. The room service at our guesthouse in Delhi was wonderful, but it was time for me to experiment. Up to this point I had been fairly rigid about the type of food I consumed – primarily sticking to food prepared at time of service. Now back in Delhi it was time to check out the street food. I was not disappointed.

I watched a young kid near me who had a wee round table with a heat source and potatoes stacked in a circular fashion. The corner that he was working seemed slow. So, he pulled the three legs of his table together and carried the whole kit and kaboodle to a busier block. It was so simple…steaming hot with a few dashes of spice. Wow, spectacular yummy goodness.

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At Raj Ghat Memorial, Chelle wanted to hang out and grab a bite while I went in to wander around the grounds and view the black marble and flame honoring Ghandi. I enjoyed the opportunity to view the King’s Bank. When I returned she had a newspaper type plate piled high with a savory mix of ingredients the name of which was unknown to me. I quickly learned that simply referring to street food as “chaat” was like describing western fare as snacks. It was all simply delicious and I am truly happy that I went outside of my comfort zone and sample a small section of street food. We checked out the central market and started to consider souvenirs for friends and family.

 

We headed back to our guesthouse Su Shree after a long day. The staff was helpful and the day was all about food and we enjoyed another room service offering. Anticipating our last day to come Chelle and I decided to get a start on packing so we could get the most out of the last day of sightseeing. We turned in about 10pm or so. At one point Chelle got out of bed and started to pace which I don’t ever recall her doing. I waited for a few moments and asked her what was going on. “Freaking out” she replied. I sat in bed and waited a few minutes more. “If you say that you’re freaking out I really need to know why you feel that way”. Chelle sat back on the bed, looked over at me. “Our flight doesn’t leave tomorrow like we thought, it leaves tonight and we need to be at the airport in an hour”. Time stood still for a moment. “That, is worth a freak out” I responded. Another heartbeat…we both jumped out of bed. Our flight departed for Beijing at 3am and we needed to be there by midnight.

We took about five minutes to assess our options. Getting on that flight priority one. We broke down what needed to happen. I called the front desk to report our problem. “Get my bill ready, I’m coming down to pay our outstanding balance and I need a car right away.” Chelle looks at me and asks if she has time for a shower? Nope, said kindly. We were rewarded for the pre-packing done a few hours earlier. From the time Chelle identified the problem to standing in the lobby was approximately 20 minutes. I had also just enough cash to pay our tab and pay for the car which had not yet arrived…tick tock, tick tock.

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Su Shree Continental

Luckily for us getting to the airport in Delhi at eleven thirty at night is considerably more easy than at just about any other time. I did not intend to rely on that though. The cost of the car to the airport was about Rs300, and when the driver arrived I told him that if he got us there by midnight I would give him a sizable tip. All I can say is be careful what you wish for. Traffic was “light” by Delhi standards but there was still a decent amount of vehicles coming and going. It was clear that we got lucky again by getting a great driver who handled his car well, hanging on for dear life was a personal decision. The airport was about twelve miles from the hotel and Ajit pulled up to the terminal exactly on time. We poured out, grabbed our bags and with a smile told him he did an awesome job and that he drives like my wife and happily handed him my last bit of cash…Rs500.

We hustled into the terminal and headed to the ticket agent. Sigh, really, really big sigh. Our flight was delayed three hours…in the initial situational assessment did either of us consider checking our flight status – no time for that I suppose. The airline gave us an upgrade and a food voucher for the inconvenience and so we waited.

The unfortunate part of this particular experience was that Chelle missed out on visiting the Sulabh International Museum of Toilets. It was something that she had been looking forward to the entire trip.  After Gandhi, Dr. Pathak is one of the few men who have championed sanitation and uplifting of the untouchables as a mission of their life. Chelle, an early adopter of a vegetarian lifestyle and an environmental steward for most of her life, this museum was important and I was saddened that it didn’t happen.

 

 

Full Circle

We flew into Delhi on October 31st by way of Los Angeles and Beijing. Our Air China flight landed in the wee hours of the morning and although eerily quiet by Indian standards the pre-paid taxi stand was an assault on my senses. Our hotel was “close” to the airport but secluded enough to cause a great deal of difficulty for our driver. At two in the morning there isn’t the typical community assistance available. Unbeknownst to us at the time we would repeat this very scenario in Cochin several weeks later. Knocked for a loop by jet lag we emerged for the first time almost 36 hours later. The air quality of Delhi at that time caused us to skip our initial sightseeing plans and head to Agra.

Nearly two full months later we had returned. The smog had lifted and we were now seasoned travelers determined to see all that the Indian capital had to offer. Picking up souvenirs and trinkets for friends and family would also begin in earnest. Plenty of things to do and see and running out of precious time.

Our hotel was close to the rail station but it was dark and had another lengthy trip behind us. We made our way to the pre-paid stand only to discover that we couldn’t purchase a ride…we were too close and the attendants told us to walk. We were hounded by many drivers who wanted ridiculous prices. To the point of Chelle losing her cool and swearing like a sailor. It cleared the crowd though. So we hiked up our packs and started the slow road to our guesthouse. We took a circuitous route and got twisted up and momentarily lost. Our India phone came in handy again. We found an open lobby of a guesthouse not our own, and one of the lads on staff led us to our spot. I gladly thanked him and practiced my palming technique.

Chelle arranged for a tour of some Delhi landmarks. Primarily on this India adventure we were self guided. It is great if you enjoy independence and ample time to wander about but it is challenging and tiring as well. What I had found on one other smaller tour we had taken was the feeling of being rushed. I didn’t like the timetable aspect, a small time here or a short time there wasn’t appealing. We had so much to see and dwindling time that being on a firm schedule was a good plan.

One stop on the tour was the Bahá’í Lotus Temple. The building is composed of 27 free-standing marble-clad “petals” arranged in clusters of three to form nine sides with nine doors opening onto a central hall and a capacity of 2500. Built in 1986, it is one of the most popular tourist sights in Delhi.

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Lotus Temple
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Interior

Having been continuously inhabited since the 6th century through most of its history, Delhi has served as a capital of various kingdoms and empires. It has been captured, ransacked and rebuilt several times, particularly during the medieval period, and modern Delhi is a cluster of a number of cities spread across the metropolitan region. Now with a size of 530 square miles and a population of 25 million.

Shortly after our arrival I found a wonderful book by Shashi Tharoor that I read throughout our trip. It covered the whole history of India through 2004. My optics on this adventure were enhanced by reading “India: From Midnight to the New Millennium and Beyond”. To be immersed in the culture all the while guided in the history by such great writing was a real treat. Understanding India in a way that I never have before. I had bits and pieces but now a much richer and fuller picture. Visiting all these historical sites were great history lessons. Every rail or sleeper bus trip I pulled out my book and devoured the next chapter. Learning about the first Mughal emperor Babur (a descendant of Genghis Khan), Humayun to Akbar.

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Qutub Minar

In the Southest district of Delhi lies the neighborhood of Mehrauli which has an array of monuments and buildings at Qutub complex. It is home to the tallest free standing brick minaret. The adjoining area spread over with a host of old monuments, including Balban’s Tomb.

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Humayun’s Tomb, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is the first of the grand dynastic mausoleums that were to become synonyms of Mughal architecture with the architectural style reaching its zenith 80 years later at the later Taj Mahal. Humayun’s Tomb was built in the 1560’s, with the patronage of Humayun’s son, the great Emperor Akbar. Persian and Indian craftsmen worked together to build the garden-tomb, far grander than any tomb built before in the Islamic world. Humayun’s garden-tomb is also called the ‘dormitory of the Mughals’ as in the cells are buried over 150 Mughal family members.

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Humayan’s Tomb

Sri Digamir Jain Lal Mandir is the oldest Jain temple in the capital, originally built in 1658. An impressive red sandstone temple today (the temple has undergone many alterations and additions in the past and was enlarged in the early 19th century), Shri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir is popularly known as Lal Mandir “Red Temple”. Also home to the famous bird sanctuary. The Birds Hospital, calls itself the only institution of its kind in the world, treats about 15,000 birds a year has been run for 60 years.

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Digambar Temple
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Birds Hospital

After a day of touring we wandered around Connaught Circus and dining at Lord of the Drinks, a Game of Thrones styled, and rather upscale restaurant. We were the oldest patrons and the food was too western for our taste. Although we liked the wall constructed from wine bottles. Next we meandered along Janpath Road and through the Tibetan Market discovering a shop overflowing with brass door knockers, locks, icons, candle holders and everything Tibetan. Luckily for the shop owner they accepted electronic payment and we fell in love with nearly everything we saw.

 

Elementary

I have been home for nearly two months and still finishing the last few posts. Some mornings I wake up and dream of India outside my window, but it’s too quiet for that. It feels like yesterday in one moment and a lifetime gone the next. As difficult and frustrating as it was to publish a blog with limited connectivity and upload speeds it pales in comparison to putting it together as time away softens the brain. If only the pictures could talk. That being said the last of the India posts hold some truly great memories.

Ignore the dates of the posts, the blog follows history of our journey and less about the precise timing of the visits. Gwalior was the last city before our return to Delhi and it was Christmas Day…

The final few days of our India trip. I was in a most reflective mood and my thoughts drifted back to the beginning. I considered our early days and reflected upon what some would conclude as daft, but The Taj Mahal was one of my least favorite monuments along our trip. We landed in Delhi shortly after Diwali celebrations and the area of choking smog extended the 210 kilometers following us to Agra.

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Taj Mahal at dawn

My experience in Gwalior was somewhat of a letdown. Mandu and Orchha which preceded this destination were special sites for us. Hidden gems discovered almost by accident. This was a larger urban location and we were staying a fair distance from the sites. It was Christmas Eve and tough on Chelle. It was another long train trip and late in the afternoon. We flopped on the bed and ordered some room service. I rarely watched television since we’d arrived having decided that all the stations seemed noisy and indecipherable. However, I flicked it on as I unpacked and scanned the channels. Low and behold one of our favorite shows was on and not in Hindi. The CBS iteration of the Sherlock Holmes stories. We settled in for a couple of episodes before bed.

We headed to Gwalior Fort – the Gibraltor of India, situated on a sandstone hill. It had been the administrative headquarters of the Tomars and witness to the rule of several dynasties. Chelle and I intended to enter the fort via the main entrance but our driver let us off at the bottom of the Urwahi gate which is on Gopachal Hill and home of the Jain Tirthankaras. Twenty one temples cut into the rock with intricate carvings of their spiritual teachers. According to Jains, a tirthankara is a rare individual who has conquered the saṃsāra, the cycle of death and rebirth, on his own and made a path for others to follow.

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Gopachal Hill

 

 

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Midway on the slopes of the fort on either side of Urwahi road, hundreds of images of Jain tirthankaras, large and small, standing and seated, sheltered in small caves or niches are carved on the rockface.

Not as intricate as the Dilwara Temples at Mt. Abu and having suffered the wrath of Mughal King Babur who mercilessly damaged the carvings. We wandered the caves and outcroppings for quite a while.

 

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The fort consists of a defensive structure and two main palaces, Gujari Mahal and Man Mandir. It’s rampart is built around the edge of the hill, connected by six bastions or towers. The Ganesh temple at Gwalior Fort has the very first occurrence of zero as a written number in the world. Post-independence, Gwalior has emerged as an important tourist attraction in central India while many industries and administrative offices came up within the city. Before the end of the 20th century it became a million plus agglomeration and now it is a metropolitan city in central India.

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Man Mandir Palace at Elephant gate
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Gwalior below the Fort

Hotel Surbhi was an interesting experience beyond some entertaining television. The room service was quite tasty and cheap. What I remember most from the first night was someone’s television being very loud and repetitive, but too tired to contact the front desk. This turned out in my favor as it was not from an adjoining room but the elevator. A voice indicating up or down closely followed by ringing slot machine type bell…over and over and over. The day we departed for Delhi Chelle and I ventured out into the Naya Bazaar neighborhood in search of some good deals. We found some cute shops and experienced the personalized touch of a textile merchant, walking out with beautiful batik sheets.

Next to the guesthouse we found a copy store and the two fellows inside assisted us in purchasing train tickets to Delhi. Yet another example of the kindness shared by nearly all we came in contact with on our journey. We still had a few hours before the train and on the advice of our hotel staff we visited the Sun Temple.

Surya Mandir, the temple as the name suggests is dedicated to the holy Sun God. Built on the lines of legendary Sun Temple at Konark, Orissa, it also derives its name from it. This temple is a new entry in the list of majestic architectures of Gwalior built in 1984 exhibiting stunning sculpture of Lord Surya. The temple building is created in the shape of chariot pulled by seven horses, four on one side and three on other each one depicting seven days of the week.

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Sun Temple

We also had a small window of time to visit to Jai Vilas Palace, an example of European architecture, an odd combination of styles, the first storey is Tuscan, the second Italian-Doric and the third Corinthian. We liked the Indian architecture throughout the country and would have been content not seeing this site except that we had excess time to spend. Constructed in the 1800’s it is the home of the last of the Scindia family which ruled Gwalior from 1726 until India’s independence from Britain.

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Jai Vilas Palace

 

The road home

Our route to Delhi led us to a stop in Orchha. The medieval city seems to be frozen in time, its palaces and temples still retaining their original grandeur…located in the Northern state of Madhya Pradesh. A former capital of the mighty Bundela Rajput Kings. Established in the early 16th century and each of the area monuments were constructed over a period of time by successive Maharajas. Our train was behind schedule and we arrived just before dusk and raced to the Royal Chhatris on the outskirts of the town. We pulled up just before closing. I had another opportunity of greasing the palms of the attendant who was packing up his bicycle.

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Royal Chhatris distant left, Jhansi Fort center left, Chaturbjhi Temple distant center 

With time limited we split off to take some photos, Chelle, as usual chatted up the only other visitors, a small group of Sikh tourists who as it turned out were from Toronto…small world. The fourteen memorials or Cenotaphs to glorify the contributions of the rulers of the mighty Bundelkhand dynasty, which are grouped along the Kanchana Ghat of the Betwa river.  Chhatris (canopy) are elevated domed shaped pavilions which are elements of Indian architecture. The word is used to refer to two different things. The usual and more widely understood meaning is of a memorial, usually very ornate. It is also used to refer to the small pavilions that mark the corners, roof of entrance of a major building. Both are on display in Orchha.

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Royal Chhatris (Centaphs)

Our guesthouse had river views of Orchha Fort which was great when the sun rose and set. Located at the center of the city, the massive fort covers an area of 49 acres. It ranks amongst the best fortified areas in India. It goes by several names Jhangir Mahal, Orchha Palace, and Mahal-e-Jahangir Orchha. The fort was built in ind0-islamic styles and contains over 100 rooms and balconies. From the outside this palace is majestic with its rugged domed buildings, rusted to photographic perfection and the few small blue stones that still cling to the old walls, giving a glimpse of what is was like centuries before.

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Orchha Fort from Jhansi Fort

A short distance from Jhangir Mahal is Chaturbhuj Temple. Built upon a massive stone platform and reached by a steep flight of steps, the temple was specially constructed to enshrine the image of Rama that remained in the Ram Raja Temple. Lotus emblems and other symbols of religious significance provide the delicate exterior ornamentation. Within the sanctum is chastely plain with high, vaulted walls emphasizing its deep sanctity.Like several other experiences around India we had a key holder attempted to sell entry to the hidden stairwell leading to the roof. We scrambled up on our own for a short time but had a deaf mute accomplice attempt to quicken our pace. Unfortunately I was trailing the Chelle and the young fellow. I moved through the tunnel too quickly in the dark and slammed my forehead on the arch. I inadvertently scared the young kid and he ran down the stairs. I found him later and tried to convey my apologies. Verbal communication was impossible but I shook his hand and gave hime a small tip.

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Market

 

 

 

Hit or miss

There were two areas in India that I had been looking forward to visiting. As a practicing Buddhist, that India contains three of the four main pilgrimage sites is exciting. Bodh Gaya is the location where it is said that Gautama Buddha obtained enlightenment. It is the most holy place in all the world for Buddhists. A sapling of the Bodhi tree under which the Buddha sat is planted here (actually a sapling of a sapling of the original tree). The other site is in Sarnath, where the Buddha first taught the Dharma and established a Sangha (community). I saw neither.

I’m just not that kind of Buddhist, or am I? The opportunity would have been lovely but I wasn’t attached to the outcome. Bodh Gaya turned out a challenge to travel to and from. Sarnath is outside Varanasi at a time when Chelle was suffering from a second intestinal illness. She was more disappointed then I was in the end. What I relished was the opportunity to see the places I never expected. Sanchi was one of those places. A small town in the state of Madhya Pradesh, is the location of several Buddhist monuments dating from the 3rd century. Home to the Great Gupta Temples.

 

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Great Stupa 1

Can a mound of dirt represent the Buddha, the path to Enlightenment, a mountain and the universe all at the same time? It can if it is a stupa. The stupa (Sanskrit for heap) is an important form of Buddhist architecture. It is generally considered to be a sepulchral monument—a place of burial or a receptacle for religious objects. At its simplest, a stupa is a dirt burial mound faced with stone. In Buddhism, the earliest stupas contained portions of the Buddha’s ashes, and as a result, the stupa began to be associated with the body of the Buddha.

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If one thinks of the stupa as a circle or wheel, the unmoving center symbolizes Enlightenment. Many stupas are placed on a square base, and the four sides represent the four cardinal directions. Each side often has a gate in the center, which allows entry from any side. Each gate also represents the four great life events of the Buddha: East (Buddha’s birth), South (enlightenment), West (first Dharma lesson), and North (nirvana). One can’t enter a stupa as it is solid object. It is a meditational practice one would circumambulate the structure. 

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Sunga balustrade & staircase Great Stupa 1

The two pillars on each gateway support three crossbeams. The images on these pillars and crossbeams give us great insight into ancient beliefs and customs. The relief sculpture depicts the events of the Buddha’s life, legends of his previous births, and other scenes important to early Buddhism. Stupas are permanent reminders of the Buddha and his teachings almost 2,500 years after his death.

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Forwards and backwards

Danish philosopher Søren Kiekegaard once declared that life could only be understood backwards; but had to be lived forwards. A great motivation for me to travel, especially to a country such as India, is the opportunity to step back in time and touch the past. The conservation and preservation conducted by the Archaelogical Society of India (ASI) is instrumental to maintaining the legacy of the country’s cultural heritage. Multiple branches throughout the governmental organization cover a broad range of specialties. It is easy to get lost in the Afghan architectural wonders and the vast grounds of Jahaz Mahal, the grandeur of the Taj Mahal, or the elegance of the Buddhist caves in Ajanta. These monuments across India are a testament to the continued resiliency of Indian people throughout human history. There is significant work to be done.

Jaipur Jantar Mantar

Extreme elements around the world are threatening our collective cultural heritage. Among the human tragedy in Syria is the entirety of that country’s heritage sites damaged or destroyed in their ongoing civil war. Sadly, not a singularity. Mausoleums in Timbuktu to the Mosque of the Prophet Yunus in Iraq and the Bamiyan Buddhist statues in Afghanistan. The importance of supporting organizations that monitor theses sites, that promote conservation and hopefully in the near future reclaim some of these monuments and renew efforts to restore what has been destroyed. However, this is not simply a second or third world problem. The people (particularly in the West) who deny the science of climate change or promote increased fossil fuel production and utilization threaten destruction not experienced in millennia. There is much we can learn from the cooperation and collaboration of nations united in preserving our cultural legacy.

While exploring the temple ruins outside Siem Reap in Cambodia, Chelle and I were surprised to discover representatives of ASI working on a restoration project at Ta Phrom. One of many temples destroyed during the civil war in Cambodia or taken over by nature. Luckily the Archeological Society of India isn’t alone in their endeavors.

The UN has a specialized organization, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The group has a variety of programs and objectives but it’s  international cooperation agreements to secure cultural and heritage areas around the globe through its World Heritage Sites. What makes the concept of World Heritage exceptional is its universal application. World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located. Sites are selected on the basis of having cultural, historical, scientific or some other form of significance. Their dedication in protection and preservation is admirable. Passing on to future generations the irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration is awesome and worthy of support.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus) Mumbai

I have given much thought to the impact that India has had on me collectively. It is a visceral response.  I am just beginning to understand the profound nature of my time here. Chelle had a very sad experience today. While exploring the Jain sculptures in Gwalior she discovered a dying dog hidden under a statue. She dug through our bag and pulled out a few morsels of food. As I comforted her she questioned the futility of her actions. My response was simple…comfort and compassion to a life that knew little of either. The intensity of her feelings have been demonstrated throughout our time here whether it was dealing with scourge of poverty or feral animals. For me there has to be more.

I am determined to contribute in some manner after I have returned home. I may return in the not too distant future volunteering on a medical team with Projects Abroad. It may mean financial donations to Amma, or Magic Bus. Contributions to ASI or some other NGO conservation/preservation group. Perhaps becoming a member of the Sierra Club back home. To get on a plane and head back to the US just to plan the next adventure is impossible without first contemplating what comes next to improve my world. Globally, within our community or both.

 

Sideways to somewhere

I’ve already covered the “you can’t get there from here” theme in an earlier post. As most folks should know, India is a vast country and we were required to revisit the connect-the-dots game again. Our next destination was to be Mandu. Approximately 384 km North of Aurangabad as the crow flies. However, traveling around India rarely involves a direct route and this would be no different. Our travel day involved catching a late night sleeper bus in one of the most chaotic scenes imaginable. Middle of nowhere on the edge of town, essentially a bus bazaar of at least twelve large caravans coming and going every which way.

Motorcycles and tuk tuks dropping off scores of travelers. Exhaust fumes mixed with road side kitchen smoke. Horns, so many obnoxious horns. Chelle furiously trying find a “quiet” spot to talk to the bus company in an attempt to figure out where we were supposed to be. I went to a rival travel shop to gain some valuable intel about the process unfolding. At one point Chelle is standing beside me, still on the phone gesticulating wildly in no particular direction. A guy on a motorcycle pulls up from behind us – the fellow on the other end of the conversation. My Wonder Woman/Fixer/Logistical magician does it again.

Off the beaten path to be sure but a big draw for Chelle was some unique arboreal residents of the area. Certainly not the only attraction to check out. The city of Mandu is adorned with spell-binding Afghan architecture surrounded by baobab trees, which are native to Africa. It is located in the Malwa region of western Madhya Pradesh state, in central India. It required an all night bus ride to Indore, followed by a smaller local bus to Dhar and transfer to a third bus. We capped the adventure off with a 2km walk (with full pack) to the guesthouse from town center. The view of the valley from the place was exceptional but the actual accommodations were not, so we hiked back into town.

The fortress town of Mandu lies on a rocky outcrop about 100 km (62 mi) from Indore is celebrated for its fine architecture. It was an important military outpost and its military past can be gauged by the circuit of the battlemented wall, which is nearly 37 km (23 mi) and is punctuated by 12 gateways. The walls enclose a large number of palaces, mosques, Jain temples of 14th century and other ruins. The oldest mosque – Jami Masjid (or great mosque) dates from 1405; it is a notable example of Pashtun architecture.

Jami Masjid

In Mandu, temperatures can often soar to 45° Celsius in summer. That’s perhaps why the Afghan architect who built the Jahaz Mahal combined conservation of water through rain water harvesting with the beauty and delicacy of Islamic architecture. The 120 meter long Jahaz Mahal complex is studded with many water structures. The twin lakes of Kapur Talab and Munj Talab abutting the palace not only stored water but helped cool its surroundings. In addition, the many baolis or step wells on the premises helped store water for drinking while the beautifully constructed pools on the roof and ground floor of the palace offered the royalty a way to relax and cool during summer months. Incredibly, these pools were fed by rain water carried by swirling channels designed to look like intertwining vines.

Jahaz Mahal

The historical legacy in Mandu is expansive stretching the length of this small town. Somewhat at the mercy of our driver who left Jahaz Mahal for last that morning. He felt that viewing Roopmati’s Pavilion at dawn was ideal. We arrived shortly after 6am and bribed the guard to let us in ahead of the official opening. It was a treat to have the place to ourselves but in hindsight we would have chosen Jahaz Mahal due in large part from a time crunch and missing a big swath of the complex. Roomati’s Pavilion, a large sandstone structure originally built as an army observation post. For tourists the spot possesses stunning views of the area…for medieval troops strategic high ground.

Roomati’s Pavalion

We could have been in Mandu for several days but alas time is what we are running out of on this journey. Our side trips continued on to just as challenging locations to access. Next was Sanchi and on Christmas Day we are in Gwalior for two days before our final stop in Delhi. With my hit and miss wifi issues I may still be blogging about our India trip after returning home. Stay tuned, more to follow.