July 29, 2010

An Evening in Mandu

“There is fragrance in the air” I said, as I tried to recall memories of the familiar scent in the air. It reminded me of my childhood. “Yes,” concurs my travel companion, walking along with me in that remote part of Mandu, Madhya Pradesh.

Mandu is a fort on top of a plateau in the Vindhya mountain range protected by what the locals call it Khakra Khoh, a deep ravine surrounding it from three sides and multiple number of gates protecting its entrance from north. Considered to be one of the largest fortified forts in the world, its historical buildings, monuments and palaces are now in ruins.

Spread out in a small region, Mandu can be covered by foot. Most of the tourists travel to Mandu in private vehicles for a day's trip or extend it to two, but I was here, not just to see the sights, but to stay and experience Mandu in the monsoons. My trip would last 5 whole days and nights!

I had reached Mandu just an hour back. Setting out after breakfast from Indore, the 70 kms journey to Dhar took almost three hours. The remaining 30 kms from Dhar to Mandu in a rickety local bus lasted another hour. I did not get an opportunity to have lunch anywhere at a decent place. So, the moment I reach Mandu Retreat, I have some snacks with a cup of tea and immediately set out to explore the place, not knowing where the road would lead me that evening.

Closest to the Retreat is the Gada Shah’s Shop, a Palace supposedly used by Medini Ray, a Rajput chief during the reign of Mahmud II. Why is it so named? I have no idea. Next to it are the stepwells, Ujali Baodi and Andheri Baodi.

I stop briefly to watch a couple working in a field nearby while their kids frolicked around with stones and sticks. In the background, I can view the famous Jahaz Mahal.

I cross the Delhi gate and yet another similar majestic one, and I climb a path to reach a wooded area with a narrow road that shows a sign to Chisti Khan’s Palace.

A cuckoo sings, and in the distance, at a gazebo, I see a movement and through my cam, find a couple in a secluded spot. From the height I get a better view of the Vindhya mountains at a distance. The sun lies low and is ready to set for the day.

Because of the monsoons, the entire ground has turned into a carpet of green grass. The sky is a beautiful sight with its warm colors, in contrast to the green hues of the abounding flora.

It was on this serene road at a height, with no traffic and no urban disturbance, that I get the first whiff of sweet smell in the air. Walking a little ahead, I begin to recognize the fragrance, as it brings back memories of my childhood when I was used to seeing women plait and adorn long hair with sweet-smelling flowers.

“It’s the fragrance of jasmine,” I squeal in delight. The fragrance of unseen jasmine blossoms fills up my senses and then I see this plant, and walking ahead, I catch sight of a few more such plants.

Yes, it is jasmine growing in the wild and as I head towards the ruins of Chisti Khan’s Palace, the fragrance only gets stronger. I come across many more wild jasmine blossoms and the sweet smell in the air is overwhelming.

At the end of the road on the edge of a projecting spur to the east stands the Chisti Khan’s Palace. Built in the 16th century as a retreat for the rainy season, I can view a central court enclosed by a number of halls and rooms, but is in ruins. There is a Persian inscription making a poignant reference to the desolation of the surroundings. The Palace certainly must have seen better times in its days of glory. The view from the top is worth a few more shots. Cool breeze and changing sunset colors only adds to the overall pleasing effect.

The joy of being in a new place and the scenery with views of the Vindhya mountains fills me up with joy. The wisps of clouds kissing the valley, the calming sounds of birds retiring to their nests, blowing cool breeze, trees swaying lightly, leaves rustling in the serenity of the place, light drizzle on and off, the changing colors of the sunset - being in the midst of all this gives an intoxicating feeling.

I take some more pictures of the sun setting far away in the Vindhyan mountains.

As cool breeze blows, I descend, and the flora continues to sway gently in the scent of the jasmine night.


"Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on,
deep and permanent,
in the ideas of living."
~ M. Beard

July 22, 2010

Open Skies

View a variety of skies at Skywatch.

No sizzling summer, no dry spells, no office timings to adhere to, no schedules, no deadlines to meet, no traffic on the road, no hustle and bustle of city life...at least not for a while! That's what I felt when I took a flight to go on a short holiday.

After a brief stop in Mumbai...

Taj, Mumbai

And in Indore...

Rajwada - Holkar Palace, Indore

Passing through Dhar....

A street in Dhar

I spent a major part of my holidays this month in a small rocky spur of the Vindhyan mountain range, in a fort that was the dwelling place of the Parmara rulers of Malwa and the Sultans of yore.

Jami Masjid and Hoshang Shah's Tomb, Mandu

I liked the historical significance of Mandu, Madhya Pradesh and also the serenity of the Vindhya mountains.

On the way to Neelkanth, Mandu

In Mandu, I set out on endless walks with gay abandon, chatting up with friendly locals, biking around for commuting and recreation, in drizzle and downpour, munching on piping hot pakodas and sipping endless cups of hot chai. I was content cosying up on a couch and reading books, or admiring the lush green surroundings, or taking breaks to simply enjoy the pitter-patter of rain drops and the soothing monsoon breeze, or watch the changing colours of a sunset.

Sunset from Chisti Khan's Palace, Mandu

We live in a wonderful world that is full of
beauty, charm and adventure.
There is no end to the adventures we can have
if only we seek them with our eyes open.
~ J. Nehru

July 9, 2010

Summer Travels

Having joined a new office with a new job I was, at first, hesitating to apply for leave. But, not being used to spending time here in the summer when the temperatures soar over 50 deg C when I generally dream of making trips to the Himalayas, and because the vagabond spirit in me got restless, I applied for a short summer break.

I am pleasantly surprised to receive an email approval of my leave. Yay! I am now ready to take off. Be in touch with you all in a few days!

July 8, 2010

July 1, 2010

Violet and Gold Skies

View a variety of skies around the world at Sky Watch.

Bhopal is very much in the news these days. What happened 26 years back was tragic and the tragedy continues!

I went through my archives and found quite a few photographs of Bhopal. The Bhopal Lake is popularly called by the locals as Bada Talab. This Lake is said to have been constructed in the 11th century during the rule of Raja Bhoj, the erstwhile King of Malwa.

I still recall the brisk early morning walk along the Bada Talab on that cold morning in December, and also the relaxed time during sunset that same evening. Here are a few shots of that day:

6:17 am:
6:47 am:
5:31 pm: