Gwalior Heritage Trip: 12-14 September, 2014
In September, 19 people had their bags packed, ticket booked and hotel arranged. We were supposed to land in Srinagar on 12th September 2014. And then the worst thing happened. Heavy rains broke all records and flooded the valley. We were in no position to fly and had to cancel the trip. Entire group was in shock and decided to not to waste the holidays. Instead of going to Srinagar, we decided to head to Bateshwar and Gwalior. 10 people signed up for the trip and 12th morning, we boarded the Tempo Traveller…
3:30 AM, Yogesh, our trusted driver drove through Keshavpuram Metro Station, where he was spotted by Ajay Gupta. Ajay boarded the bus and headed to Rajouri to pick Tauseef Ahmed, who then drove to Tilak Nagar to pick me and Mandeep. I was told that there will be scarcity of food and water in remote village of Padhwali, where we were supposed to reach. So I had already arranged for a huge carton of snacks and another one of water bottle (Only to find that everyone else has done same). By 5am, we had reached Dwarka to pick Vipin Saggar and then via Mahipalpur, headed Andheria Mod to pick Viraj, Sarika, Gurpreet and Monidipa. From Chhatarpur, Nemish boarded and then we all reached the historic village of Khirki to receive Krinna. By 6:00 AM, we were driving on the DND Flyover.
As we reached the Yamuna Expressway, half of our group was asleep. Our first stop was the Food joint at Toll plaza, where we picked tea/coffee and opened the treasure box of pranthas, sandwiches and snacks. Krinna was very generous to help prepare fresh cheese sandwiches for everyone and our first stop enroute Bateshwar/Gwalior was worth it.
While crossing Agra, everyone was happy to see Itmad-ud-Daul, Fort and Taj Mahal (but from a distance :)). We reached Dholpur and ventured through tight streets to reach the Ghazra Tomb of Dholpur. Entrance was from inside a school and we were told to avoid it. But when we insisted, the person said that go inside only if you have a torch. The structure was unique and in very bad shape. A very huge tomb, with four minarets, all connected to main tomb via bridges. Access to inside of tomb was through a dense bush. We crawled through it to find ourselves in a pitch dark room. The moment we managed to light up the hall with mobile torches, we found that it has amazing relief work on walls and arches. We asked local kids about the nearby Baoli and they took us to the place via an inside shortcut. The baoli was equally amazing with nice parapets along well. And finally we had our first group photo
We called the ASI staff at Bateshwar and Padhwali to inform of our journey. We were told that the road from Noorabad is blocked due to bridge construction. So we had to take a longer route from Bamer and drive through the unexplored countryside. This journey was most pleasing with ravines of chambals and small to large lakes everywhere. Weather was pleasant and the greenery was giving a soothing feeling. As we reached Bateshwar Temple Complex, the first sight of site took away all the tiredness we had.
This complex of 120 Temples was built by Gurjar Pratihar Dynasty much before Khajuraho. Few decades back, it was all broken and hardly any structure was left. Then came Sh. KK Muhammed, the then head of Bhopal Circle, who took the challenge to restore these tombs and managed to convince the dacoits of Chambal to help him. His entire journey of reaching there, restoring temple and fighting with the top brass was nothing less than an adventure movie. We went inside the tiny fortress built inside complex and occupied a room, where we ran the documentary of Sh KK Mohammed, explaining how he restored this complex. If you have not seen that documentary so far, here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3hT6PeUUVM.
Before we started clicking, the generous ASI staff gave us seats and served hot food, prepared locally in the temple complex. This was the best meal we had during this trip. Later, Group spread out and started clicking. The complex was huge, so everyone occupied a spot and spent as much time as s/he could. We had some amazing shots from the place.
The complex is the most addictive monument I ever visited. You have to force yourself out of the place and something inside you will keep saying, “turn back and click more”. Every single structure in there has a unique story and some unique architecture. From the Shiva Temple to the largest Vishnu Temple, everyone has something special to offer.
But it was dark and we had to leave. We had already consumed all our time for day and headed to Gwalior city as fast as we could.
At night, we checked into our hotel and noone was left with any energy to have dinner. So the food was served into selected rooms and rest crashed into their beds, only to be found alive the next day
Day 2: Gwalior Fort
Day 2 started with waking everyone via Whatsapp and greeting each other on the breakfast table. We went to Mohd Ghaus’s Tomb and Tansen’s Tomb. Jaali work at the tomb and the surrounding structures took our breath away. We spent considerable time there and headed to Gwalior Fort. Tight streets of old Gwalior greeted us with traffic congestion, but it was more of fun driving along the foothill of 10Km long fort wall. As we found the road to enter the Gwalior Fort, we took it and within few meters, Krinna screamed as she saw some amazing statues on walls. These were Jain Tirthankars, engraved all along the wall. We stopped our bus and spent 30 minutes clicking them.
Later, we reached Fort and met the incharge of Museum, who gave us a personal tour and offered nice tea in his office. But tea cannot replace a nice heavy meal, so we were out again hunting for food. The royal kitchens of Maharaja Maan Singh, Jehangir and Scindias had closed centuries ago. So we found an amazing option. We went to Data Bandi Chhod Gurudwara in the Fort. After a long lecture on Sikh history, we went to the Langar Hall. Divine food and amazing tea made our day there. And how can we forget the amazing kDaah Prashad. Then started our photography. First the colorful Durga Temple outside Gurudwara and then the Shiva Temple in lotus Pond. Then we went to bad ridden Teli ka Mandir and later clicked (and got clicked at) Sas-Bahu ka Mandir. I find Sas-Bahu Mandir the most interesting in terms of architecture
We then went to palace of Raja Maan Singh, where ASI staff took us around the rooms and explained the story of fort. It was around 5pm and we had to wait till Light and Sound Show. So we took some rest at the Karn Palace in fort. Some of us went to click kids diving in pool and some were trying to capture the Sunset.
Light and Sound show, I would say, was way below standard. The only reason we could sustain it was that we were trying to condole ourselves by passing comments on the poor dialogue delivery of the voice over artists. Our day ended with a nice dinner one of the Veg restaurants near our hotel. And since the restaurant was pure vegetarian, Monidipa had to satisfy herself with ice-cream only.
We had planned to go to Deeg and Bharatpur on Day 3. But our thirst at Bateshwar was not quenched. So after quick breakfast, we headed back to Bateshwar. Since it was Sunday, we knew that there will be no staff at Bateshwar monument to prepare lunch for us. So we picked few packs of maggi, which we were supposed to cook ourself at the monument. We reached Mitaoli. Climbing 108 steps, we found the circular 64 yogini temple, used for Tantric activities since centuries. Some say, the design of Parliament is inspired from this. View from this complex was amazing and even better was having tea prepared with fresh milk, served on the hilltop.
After Mitaoli, we reached Garhi Padhwali. This was a Shiva temple, later converted into a Fortress. The mandap (Gateway) was kept intact and Garbh Mahal (Sanctum Sanctorum) was removed. We saw some amazing artwork in the Mandap. It was not as huge as the Akshardham Temple or the Khajuraho, but it was far better and exquisite than these. I am in total love with Bateshwar and Garhi Padhwali. We spent so much time there, that we had no time left for bateshwar. We went to Bateshwar for a short halt of 30 minutes, quickly clicked the remaining shots that we had in mind and headed back to Bamer via Shanishcharaya Temple, which is said to be centuries old. Then we reached Noorabad, where we stopped on the historic bridge. It was sad to see how govt has “renovated” the bridge and very less of original structure is left.
Then there was nothing between us and our lunch in Agra. We spent time discussing history. And after few butter naans went down our food pipe, we were energized enough to play antakshari on our way back, until the bus tire burst and everyone jumped with joy. We now had a golden chance to get down and walk on the Yamuna Expressway enjoying the sunset.
As we reached Delhi, it was same route back, dropping everyone.
This was by far one of the most interesting trips for me in terms of architectural findings. I hope we will have similar trips coming up in future. I am already planning to visit Bateshwar and Gwalior again as my thirst to click those temples is not satisfied.