May 30, 2008

Ostensibly Orchha

Some scenes shot while walking on the streets of Orchha. My next travel post shall be on Orchha, a medieval town along the Betwa River that was chosen by the Bundela Chief, Raja Rudra Pratap Singh (1501-1532), as his capital.

May 27, 2008

Tranquil Tuesday

Click on pic

River Indus flows
brown mountains, green valley
dyllic setting

May 25, 2008

The Tiger and the Flame

This is a small post following my two previous on Jhansi and the Queen of Jhansi titled:

Other notable sights in the Jhansi Fort are the Panch Mahal, Rani Amod garden area, the Shiva temple, the Ganesh temple etc.

Ganesh Mandir

Of particular interest are the popular cannons: Kadak Bijli and Bhawani Shanker Cannon, and then there are a couple of mini-cannons too. It is written that Kadak Bijli was operated by Ghulam Ghaus Khan, the revolutionary leader, while Bhawani Shanker was handled by Moti Bai. Moti Bai was apparently a dance performer at the times of Jhansi’s King but she is known to have handled the cannon better than her dances.

Inside the Fort Complex are the tombs of Ghulam Ghaus Khan, whose last words are said to be: “For our queen we shall lay down our life…” Buried nearby are Motibai and the famous horse, Khuda Bux (or Baksh), who died on 4 June 1858.

Other places of interest around the Fort are the Rani Mahal (Queen's Palace) built in the latter half of the 18th century which is converted into an archaeological museum now.

Rani Mahal

A good collection of sculptures belonging to the period between 9th and 12th centuries A.D. has been housed in the Rani Mahal. Photography was not allowed there.

Entrance to Rani Mahal

Raja Gangadhar Rao's cenotaph

There is also the cenotaph of the Queen’s husband, Raja Gangadhar Rao Newelkar and the temples around it.

Raja Gangadhar Rao was considered as a good man and a good administrator of Jhansi and a great promoter of arts.

A section of the temple nearby


Then there is the Lakshmibai Talab nearby which is a lake in a sadly dried up and shabby state with stagnant water. I hastily left the place to move on to Orchha.

Jhansi is very well connected to major cities across India by direct train links. Situated at a strategic location where the NS and EW National Highways intersect with each other, I took the NH 75 connecting Jhansi from Gwalior, 98 kms away. Datia is about 30 kms, Orchha 20 kms and Khajuraho is 175 kms away. There is regular bus service to Jhansi from Jaipur, Agra and Gwalior.

The nearest operational airport to Jhansi is Gwalior, 98 kms away. Jhansi has an airport, but is not operational for civil flights as it is a base of Army Aviation. A new airport is in the pipeline which would enable excellent connectivity with major metros and other important cities.

May 21, 2008

The Gift

Through icy-winds
For daily free meal
Raj hobbles
Tugs his warm coat
Kind soul's donation!
Mugger pounces
Wields knife
Demands wallet
Raj gives, sees
Another hungry person!
Raj hollers
At darting figure
Plucking hurriedly
His only coat, gives
"Friend, for meal
Not enough in wallet,
Keep this,
It should keep you warm."

Icy-winds howl!

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

The Dalai Lama

May 20, 2008

Tranquil Tuesday

Click on picture

Serene atmosphere
Wintry waters of Naini
Charming mountain town

May 18, 2008

Queen's Battle to Death

The Jhansi Fort is synonymous with the great revolt of 1857 which many refer to as the first war of India's independence. It is a beautiful fort built on the Bangra hilltop by Raja Vir Singh Deo of Orchha in 1613. The Fort was later on passed into the hands of Rani Lakshmibai, the Queen of the Maratha-ruled princely state of Jhansi and she made it her residence.

As soon as I set my eyes on the Fort, I was transported back to history and thought of the heroism of the young Queen who lost her life in the battlefield.

If you have read my previous post on Jhansi, and India's Joan of Arc, you would understand my sentiments on why my heart goes out to the young Queen. She had to face so many difficulties during her short life. To cite a few:

  • at losing her mother when she was just 4 years old,
  • at being widowed at a young age,
  • at the death of her only biological child,
  • at the blow dealt to her by the British on the secession case of her infant adopted son who did not receive his inheritance,
  • at the lack of support from neighboring rulers,
  • at the capture and execution of her father, Moropant Tambe, by hanging at the hands of the enemies,
  • at how torn she must have felt to remain loyal to the British out of helplessness under the circumstances while wanting to support the rebels when the Mutiny erupted, and
  • above all, at how the society of those days must have looked down upon her for being a childless widow.

Whether it was defending the invading armies of the Orchha and Datia rulers in 1857, or getting no support from neighboring Gwalior, or fighting off the British army in 1858, the young Queen's life was a constant struggle. Historians state that though originally she continued to serve her British masters faithfully, it was only when she was faced with the impending likelihood of execution that the Queen then revolted against them.

I can't stop from sharing a little more on the sad history of events that took place during the last few years of the Queen’s life.

In 1858, on suspicion that the Queen was aiding the mutineers, the British attacked the Jhansi Fort and after weeks of conflict, they laid siege and finally succeeded in the annexation of Jhansi. However, the Queen managed to escape along with her son and covering several kilometres in a few hours, took refuge in Kalpi.

There is a legend of a spot at the Fort that is said to remind of the extremely heroic feat of the Queen when she, in the guise of a man, jumped from an edge of the Fort to her waiting horse several feet below, with her adopted son tightly strapped to her back.

In Kalpi the Queen was received as a great warrior together with a very small group of her most faithful soldiers who escaped along with her. From there, three months later, with the help of the Nawab of Banda and others, the Queen lead a successful attack on the British fortress at Gwalior that was under the control of General Hugh Rose.

The Queen was determined to secure Jhansi from British annexation throughout her life. She proclaimed her decision on not giving up Jhansi and went to the extent of establishing links with various revolutionaries and also with her childhood friend, Tatya Tope (also called Tantia). In one of her meetings with Tatya Tope, she is said to have mentioned that Jhansi will set an example of free India. The more I read about the Queen, the more I am convinced that her intention was not limited to territorial aspirations but that she had a vision and foresight for India's freedom.

Lord Dalhousie, the colonial administrator in India in between 1812-1860, who was on a quest for mass annexation of all Indian territories decided to annex Jhansi. Under his Doctrine of Lapse thousands of lives were lost. Throughout the uprising, the Queen had to fight another private battle to secure the rights of her adopted son who was deprived of his kingdom by the British authorities.

In the final days, Tatya Tope had hopes of support for the Peshwa from Gwalior, however, it was not to be so as it is reported that the Scindia army had a secret alliance with the British. In the losing battle with the British at Gwalior, days of fierce hand to hand fighting ensued in which thousands of soldiers were killed. It is written that on the last day on the battlefield in Gwalior she rode on her horse as the defiant leader of the defense, dressed as a man, using her sword. She was in the thick of battle when a British Army soldier threw his sword at her, killing the Queen on June 18, 1858.

The Queen will always be remembered for her words: Meri Jhansi nahin dungi meaning, I will not give up my Jhansi.

The Queen's heroism became a beacon for the upcoming generations of freedom fighters. She is considered a martyr and iconic figure whose example set in motion the freedom struggle that consequently rid the subcontinent of its colonial rule.

The Queen of Jhansi will always be regarded as an epitome of bravery in India because of her wisdom, courage, sacrifice and progressive views on women's empowerment in 19th century India.

May 16, 2008

Caves of Panna

This post is to seek help from those who have travelled, or have knowledge of areas, in and around Panna and its National Park. Panna is in the Vindhyan hill range of the Central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

For the rest of you, I hope you enjoy the pictures.

While on my way to Bandhavgarh National Park, I came across this beautiful spot in the Panna National Park that has some caves that the taxi driver said are populary called as Pandav caves. I have tried to find out more information on the web on these caves but my efforts have been futile.

Any help in providing any information or identifying this spot will be much appreciated. Please note I am not referring to the Pandav Caves of Pachmarhi.

I shall post more details on Panna and its National Park in due course.

May 13, 2008

Tranquil Tuesday

Click on picture for a better view from the Boat House, Kerala

This moment is mine
Care not for destination
Enjoy the journey

May 11, 2008

Jhansi, and India's Joan of Arc

Bundele harbolon ke munh hamane suni kahaani thi,
Khoob ladi mardaani woh to Jhansi waali raani thi.

A rough translation of it is:

"This story we heard from the mouths of Bundel bards
Like a man she fought, she was the Queen of Jhansi."

Those are the last few lines of one of the most recited poetry in Hindi literature composed by Subhadra Kumari Chauhan on the life of Rani Lakshmibai. During my school days, I’ve sung it too with rousing feelings of patriotism.

And that is what I recalled when I had my taxi stop at the Jhansi Fort while on my way to explore Orchha, the twin city of Datia.

Jhansi is approximately 25 kms from Datia, and about 100 kms from Gwalior. To the uninitiated, on the map of Central India, there is the southern part of Uttar Pradesh jutting into the northern part of Madhya Pradesh and in between that tiny protruding area of UP is where Jhansi is located. It was nice to see my phone popping up continuous messages of ‘Welcome to Uttar Pradesh’ and ‘Welcome to Madhya Pradesh’ alternatively while on that short road journey, and the signboards on road checkposts affirming same.

Who is the Queen of Jhansi?

Most of us are aware of the historical facts on the popular Rani Lakshmibai. Since I like to dwell on it, let me briefly put a few of my thoughts here.

Queen Lakshmibai was affectionately called Manu when small. Having lost her mother at age 4, her father encouraged her with martial training, including riding, fencing and shooting when she was still a child. Probably her father envisioned her becoming the queen and so educated her accordingly.

Manu married Raja Gangadhar Rao Niwalkar at a young age and became the Queen of Jhansi. As was customary in those days to change name after marriage, she was thereafter known as Lakshmibai. It is said that she gave birth to a son, but the child died a few months after birth. Shortly, Gangadhar Rao fell very ill and he grudgingly relented only a day before his death to adopt a distant relative, a boy named Damodar Rao.

To ensure that the British would not be able to contest the adoption, the Rani had it witnessed by the local British representatives. If I have my history right, upon the Maharaja's death, the British-Indian authorities refused to recognize the adopted child as the next prince, sought to disgrace the Queen and moved to take control. They confiscated the state jewels and deducted her husband's debts from her annual pension. She was required to leave Jhansi Fort for the Rani Mahal, another palace nearby that I visited in Jhansi town.

An poignant account of a meeting between the Rani and her lawyer, John Lang, are recounted in his book, Wanderings in India, published in 1861.

In my next, I shall write and post more pictures of the Jhansi Fort, the fort that played a major role during the first war of Indian Independence in 1857.

May 8, 2008


Chilling news, disbelief
Just too choked to weep
Lifeless eyes
Only twenty-one
Lingering innocence
Life of bereavement
She hardly grieved
But collected
And subjugated
To age-old customs
Plonked around women
And hired lamentators
Veil tossed, arms tugged
Bangles pulled off, broken
And off the forehead
With one violent sweep
Her Sindoor is wiped off !

Hindu women use vermillion known as Sindoor, said to represent strength and love, only after they are married. It is applied as a line filling the dividing part of a woman’s hair or as a decorative dot on the forehead. Sindoor is a sign of marriage in Hinduism.

May 6, 2008

Tranquil Tuesday

Click the picture to view larger size

Waters of Naini
Shimmer through barren branches
Post winter beauty

May 5, 2008

One Hundred

This is my hundredth post. I've 'decorated' this post with a lot of links. This is my record of my dear readers' kindness and appreciation on this blog, and you are welcome to click on these links.

Hundred. Yes. I did not expect to touch three digits, but this blog world has turned out more interesting than I thought it would be.

When I started this blog about 10 months back, I was not quite sure what would be in it and how it would turn out. Except for those days when I was journeying which were the ‘no internet’ times, the fact that I have continued to blog, more or less, on a regular basis gives me a strange kind of pleasure though this might be something inconsequential to others.


In these few months, I have been blog rolled by: Pijush, Ram, and Chewy and over time, it has been a pleasant surprise to find more readers have added my site link on their websites. Some of them are: Ananda, Tejas, Sigma, Ajeya, Jeevan, Lakshmi, Gil, Sameera, Priyank, San, Shantanu, Arun, Saibal, Indrani, Aditi, Michele, etc. I may have missed out some, so please inform me as I'd be delighted to add your name here.

Sincere thanks to all of you.

Invitations and Links

I have been invited by Nandan to write on his popular travel website ghumakkar and I have contributed two posts on Jaipur there. Thanks Nandan. I shall write on more travel topics in due course.

I have got invitations here and here to submit posts at desicritics. Again, this has been possible because of my blog, so when time permits I shall respond to those requests too.

Lekhni has linked my post on Datia Palace to Desipundit here. The post on ghumakkar has also been linked here. Thanks Lekhni.

Mridula has linked my posts on Surya Mandir and Nostalgia to Blogbharti here and here. Thank you Mridula.

Saibal has been kind to invite me to contribute for his successfully launched Wandering Souls with a good readership and I shall be happily doing that shortly. Thanks Saibal.

I have been invited by Arun of the beautiful India Travel Blog to write a guest post on it, and I feel privileged to do that. Thanks Arun.


I have got some awards in spite of being a fairly new blogger. Apologies for not having distributed some these awards generously as I am supposed to. I know I shall be forgiven for that.

So, during these ten months, David of Authorblog has given me the Post of the Day Award to three of my posts: Incredible India Indeed in August 2007 here, Vera in September 2007 here, and Guns n' Roses in October 2007 here. Now that is what I say is real encouragement to a new blogger. Thanks David.

Sameera of Sameera's Haven has been sweet to give me The Egel Nest Blog Award in October 2007 in the comments section here and that was touching. Thanks Sameera.

Sammy's Dad, Bradley of The Egel Nest, and his mom, Linda have been gracious to bestow on me The Egelnest Blog Award in November 2007 here . Thanks Bradley and Linda.

Our globetrotter, Gil of Blogtrotter has been kind to present me here with You Make My Day Award in January 2008. Thanks Gil.

The same Award came from another direction. Our Backpacker, Lakshmi has been sweet to present me the You Make May Day Award here in January 2008. Thanks Lakshmi.

Last month, San of A Life with a View gave me a pleasant surprise here with this Award:

In addition to the beautiful words on that Award, San states I am an adventuress who "travels to exotic places and brings [us] back souvenirs in the form of lovingly crafted travel logs." San, thank you for your kind words.

Dear reader,

It feels good to know you have interest and appreciate what is written here. As to travel log, I write some details of my experiences and include some information on the history of the places I've travelled to. I'm not quite sure if this fits the definition of a travel blog. However, I do not let that matter as long as I am enjoying it. I have also been posting some of my attempts at poetry and have resumed my Haiku post on Tranquil Tuesday and am glad that some of you like it.

During the past 10 months, in this captivating blog world, I have developed a pleasant bond with you. I notice people from all over the world, all walks of life, of different religions, beliefs, faith, professions, ideas, and opinion are here and we are bound in a fascinatingly beautiful way. I love that!

I want to acknowledge each and every person who has visited my blog, including lurkers. For keeping me going, for dropping by, for leaving your footprints in the form of appreciation and encouraging comments, and your friendship, I thank you. It's been lovely knowing some of you beyond the blog through emails and phone calls and its truly great meeting like-minded people, thanks to this blog.

As far as possible, I have tried to respond to all comments on my blog. In case I have not, please understand that it has not been intentional. Your comments have been a source of inspiration to me. In some instances, the comments have, in fact, added a new perspective to my posts. I will look forward to continuing support from you and developing this bond in days to come.

Blogging has been a new and interesting journey for me. Dear reader, I want to emphasize how equally interesting it has been to visit your blogs where I have discovered a variety of awesome posts with pictures. That has been a delightful experience for me.

- Celine