Monday, January 30, 2017

MP Diaries - Maheshwar, Fashion Carved in Stone

Maheshwar stands as a brilliant example of Maratha architecture portraying marvelous geometric symmetry, which is truly a feast for the eyes. The sculptures and carvings on stone simply exhibit the excellent craftsmanship the ancient men possessed. The decorative friezes at the base of the platform, sculptures of dwarapalakas (door-keepers) on either sides of the door, corbels carved in the form of statues depicting various men and women with a variety of attire and ornaments, musicians, dancers and the intricate carvings of lattice designs and floral patterns on the walls  are most impressive and carved to perfection. Below are some of the exceptional statuettes of men and women found in the courtyard of Vithoji's Chhatri/Cenotaph. The unique clothing styles, patterns and ornamentation epitomizes the fashion statement of their period.
A Bearded Man with his Better-Half
Door-Keeper
A Musician Playing the Bugle
A Stylish Couple
Lord Krishna with his Lover Radha
Lord Krishna with Radha and Rukmini 
A Dancing Couple
Couple with a Child - Team G Cube !!! 
Musicians Playing the Shehnai and Dhol
Peacock Admiring the Beauty of a Lady 
An Englishman seen holding Parrots
A Lady in Maheshwari Saree (Striped Saree)
A Godly Woman
Take a Closer Look
 Soldier with a Dagger
 Musicians Playing the Mridangam and Been
A British Lady 


Friday, January 27, 2017

MP Diaries - Maheshwar, Sanctified by Faith

Maheshwar, Madhya Pradesh
Maheshwar, Sanctified by Faith
Maheshwar, nestled on the banks of River Narmada was a glorious city of the Hindu civilisation in the past. This town finds its mention in the epics of  Ramayana and Mahabharata as Mahishmati, the ancient capital of King Kartavirya Arjuna (Shree Sahasrarjuna). There is an interesting legend associating this place with Ravana, the king of Lanka and Sahasrarjuna, the 1000 armed King. A small river nearby that joins the Narmada is still called by the name of Mahishmati. Later, the town rose to prominence with the rule of Rani Ahilya Bai of Holakar dynasty, whose voice of bravery still echoes in the walls of the fort. The town is also famous for Maheshwari sarees that are hand woven and elegant. We reached Maheshwar on the night of December 28th after a one and a half hour drive from Omkareshwar. The accommodation options were many and we chose one to crash out that night. We woke up early and got ready for a long day of exploration. We headed straight towards the Fort of Ahilya Bai after the entrance of which, a narrow road lead us to the Chaturbhuj temple.
Maheshwar fort entrance
Entering the Fort 
Chaturbhuj Naryana Temple 
A temple exhibiting typical North Indian style of architecture and stands in neglect, is dedicated to  the four armed Lord Naryana (Lord Vishnu). As this temple was closed during our visit,  we were unable to witness the temple interiors.
Chaturbhuj Naryana Temple
Raja Rajeshwar Temple 
This temple complex is situated close to the Ahileshwar temple (main temple). There are many temples in this complex, most of which are dedicated to Lord Shiva. One such, seemed lively with a lot of action happening in terms of rituals and offering prayers. There is an idol of the king Sahasrarjuna in the temple.
Raja Rajeshwar Temple
King Sahasrarjuna 
 Ahileshwar temple 
The Ahileshwar temple is a multi-tiered temple distinguished by its carved overhanging balconies and intricately carved doorways. This temple is dedicated to Lord Rama who is seen along with his consort Sita matha and brother Lakshmana. This temple stands as an the epitome of Holkar style of architecture and a symbol of pride of Queen Ahilya Bai.
Ahileshwar Temple and River Narmada
 Chhatri of Vithoji 
In front of the Ahileshwar temple is a Chhatri (Cenotaph) dedicated to Shrimant Sardar Vithoji Rao Holkar, who was sentenced to death by being trampled under elephant's feet by the Maratha King Peshwa Baji Rao II. The presence of enormous carvings of elephants may be attributed to this incident.
Chhatri of Vithoji 
Ahilya Ghat 
Ahilya ghat, built on the banks of river Narmada during the reign of Rani Ahilya Bai is situated besides the temple of Ahileshwar, from where one can get an astounding  view  of the Ahilya Bai fort.
Ahilya Bai Ghat and Fort
Ahilya Bai Palace
The royal Palace of Holkar dynasty where Queen Ahilya Bai spent most of her time during her rule   is now converted into a small museum with collections of  her memorabilia. There is a big statue of the Queen Ahilya Bai inside this palace installed in her memory. The rest part of the Palace is now converted in the Heritage hotel.
Queen Ahilya Bai 
Gobar Ganesha Temple 
This 900 year old temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha  is one of the oldest living temples here. Due to its continuous renovations, the temple currently is seen as a modern structure housing the 900 year old Ganesha idol shaped out of Gobar (cow dung). It is indeed surprising. How this idol has survived for such a long period, being made of organically decomposeable material is a  mystery. We were fortunate enough for having a chance to visit this temple which was located in the interior streets of Maheshwar.
Lord Gobar Ganesha 
Other places to visit around: Kaleshwar Temple, Narmada Temple, Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Jawaleshwar Temple, Baneshwar Temple (on the island formed by River Narmada), many other temples and ghats. 
Distance from nearby major town: 90 km from Indore. 
Accommodation: We stayed at hotel Devarshi, a good budget hotel for over night stay located on the road to Damoh. The hotel attached to this place only serves vegetarian food. Only cash is accepted here. Another option for lodging is hotel Narmada Retreat maintained by  MPSTDC. Various options exist to suit one's budget. 
Where to eat: Hotel Narmada Retreat is the best choice for food apart from the various cafes inside the fort area, although road side eateries were our favorite for the very famous Poha and Sev.

References:
2. RBS Visitors Guide India - ''Madhya Pradesh"

Monday, January 23, 2017

MP Diaries - Omkareshwar, The Divine OM Parikrama

During our discussion over a quick lunch, we decided to skip Omkareshwar and Maheshwar and head straight to Mandu due to time constraint. Without wasting any more time, we headed towards Mandu and the closest route was via Maheshwar. Around 3:40 pm, we reached a cross road leading to Omkareshwar and realised that Mandu was about 150 km from here. Thinking again, we modified our plan and drove towards Omkareshwar as we were aware we wouldn't be able to make it to Mandu before sunset. We reached the village of Omkareshwar within ten minutes and were greeted by the narrow lanes of this temple town. Navigating through these lanes, we reached the southern bank of river Narmada. While we were on a look out for a place to park our vehicle, we were surrounded by numerous priests (read them as touts/agents) who offered to take us to a direct darshan of the Lord Omkareshwar. We managed to find a parking spot finally through one of the agent inside a compound for Rs 50/-.
Omkareshwar Temple Ghat
Omkareshwar Temple Ghat
Omkareshwar is one of the 12 Jyothirlinga shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is situated on an island resembling the holy symbol OM on the banks of the triveni sangam (holy confluence) of rivers Narmada, Kaveri and invisible Saraswathi. There are two ways to reach the temple from the southern bank of river Narmada, either a walk via hanging bridge or a boat ride. We zeroed in on the boat ride as our little one enjoys being in, around and surrounded by water! After a hard bargaining negotiation, our agent he agreed to show us three places for Rs 200/- which were the confluence of the rivers/dam, the Omkareshwara temple and the Vishnu temple. Our boat man first took us close to the dam and told us about that place being the confluence of the rivers which we realised later to be untrue. The point of confluence lies behind the dam and can be reached by walk from main temple. Later we were dropped at the bank of Omkareshwar temple. He informed us that the temple would open by 4:30 pm for darshan and here again while we waited in queue for darshan, we were approached by many priests/agents offering direct darshan at a cost. We had a tough time avoiding them. We stood in the queue for, say 20 minutes before we had the darshan of Lord Omkareshwar. 
Omkareshwar Dam across River Narmada
Omkareshwar Dam across River Narmada
Lord Omkareshwar Jyothirlinga
Lord Omkareshwar Jyothirlinga 
 The main temple of Omkareshwara is multi-storeyed, with each storey housing one Shivalinga dedicated to the various forms of Lord Shiva. The temple has some beautiful sculptures which are spread across the temple complex. Thanks to Madhya Pradesh government, this place is very cleanly maintained despite being a pilgrimage center. Here on while returning to our boat, we found a cave temple dedicated to Guru Shankaracharya. This sacred cave is the place where Shankaracharya met his guru Govindphada. We reached the boat, and rode towards the Vishnu temple. We had to see this huge idol of Lord Vishnu from the boat only and later were dropped near the Gomukh Ghat. Gomukh ghat is a ghat on the southern bank of river Narmada and a flight of steps here lead us to the temple complex of Mamleshwar. This temple is considered to be the oldest temple here and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. We managed to make a quick visit to all the temples in the complex and stopped by to have a cup of tea. In between our exit from the temple and sipping hot tea, we had picked up a book about Omkareshwar written in Hindi. As we sipped tea, we brushed through the book only to find many other interesting places worth a visit here and around. At the tea stall, we inquired about a few places given in the book and were informed that most of those structures were located on the hillock behind the main temple. Though we were contemplating and initially quite hesitant to ascend the hill, by heart because of our tired legs, we desperately wanted to visit this place and finally put a step forward. Our hearts finally winning won over legs. Unknowingly we were along the divine OM Parikrama or the Narmada Parikrama, a circuitous path regarded as sacred when completed by pilgrims. We crossed the hanging bridge and started our ascent by the steps laid to the top of the hill with the beautiful sun setting, in the back ground. We had to hurry up and rush through a few temples and structures before it fell completely dark. We only wished we would have made it here much earlier, so we could enjoy the sheer beauty of this place. All the structures and temples built here are attributed to the reign of the Paramara dynasty.
Inside Shankaracharya Cave
Dwarapalas of Mamleshwar Temple
Mamleshwar Temple Complex  Omkareshwar
Mamleshwar Temple Complex 
Calmly Flowing Narmada
Gauri/Gori Somnath temple  ( Locally known as Mama-Bhanja temple) 
This is a beautiful two storeyed temple belonging to the 11th century AD housing a huge Shivalinga. It is built of red sandstone and is associated with various interesting legends. There is also a beautiful Nandi idol opposite to the temple. A little further is the Patali Hanuman temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman who is seen in a reclining posture.
Gori Somnath Temple
 Sita Mata Temple 
This 11th century temple, now mostly in ruins is dedicated to Goddess Sita (Lord Rama's consort). 
Goddess Sita 
Sita Matha Temple
Sita Matha Temple 
Chand - Suraj Dwar (Moon - Sun Fort Gateway) 
This is a very beautiful fort gateway and on either sides of the gateway are carved images of river goddesses Ganga and Yamuna. A carving of Lord Ganesha is also seen here.
Mahishasura Mardhini
Lord Ganesha
Chand Suraj Dwar
 Siddhnath Barahdwari Siddeshwar Temple
The main reason for our ascent to this hillock was the picture of Siddhnath temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The sun had set by the time we reached this temple. Even in the dark the temple looked equally beautiful, consisting of 72 pillars (18 pillars in each direction). All the pillars seemed to be very well executed.
Siddhnath Barahdwari Temple

Bhima Darwaja (Bhima Gate)
Another gateway to this fort is the Bhima Darwaja where a huge idol of Bhima (one of the five Pandava brothers from Mahabharata) is seen. 
Bhima 

Finally we reached the main temple of Omkareshwar where the parikrama ends and got another chance of darshan of the Lord, this time among a relatively lesser crowd. Since it is the Parikrama path, the pathway was well laid and well-lit all along.
Carvings on the Ceiling of Omkareshwar Temple
Omkareshwar At Night 
Raj Mahal Omkareshwar
Raj Mahal Omkareshwar

Distance from nearby major town - 75 km from Indore.
Accommodation - Being a pilgrimage center, there are many options for finding accommodation. Narmada resort being one among the better ones is maintained by MPSTDC. 

Where to eat - Many road side eateries offer Poha, Jalebi, Samosa and other snacks.

References 
1. RBS Visitors Guide India - ''Madhya Pradesh"
2. Omkareshwar Mahathva - A Local Guide
2. Ghumakkar 



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