Saturday, November 21, 2015


The entire trip was marvelous and an eye opener about the little known (at least to me) architectural treasures that India holds.

Here are some highlights.

My favorite lodging was the Ken River Lodge, there is something unique about a real mud hut in the middle of natural surroundings, with heating, cooling, 5 star amenities and a separate dressing room thrown in there.

The down to earth and very helpful staff and the simple but tasty food was very welcome. So much so that I am willing to overlook that the weather was stormy and miserable and their wifi was down most of the time we we were there.

Now on to the forts.

It's harder with the forts but I will give it a try. As most would say from the looks, beauty, and the sheer size of it, it would have to be The Gwalior Fort. It is in fact the most photographed fort in all history and guide books.

Then there is the Jhansi Fort, so steeped in rich history and culture, that one cannot help but be awed.

If you are like me and enjoy intrigue and imagination, the Garkundarh Fort wins hands down, it has a haunting and eerie feel at every turn. It is easy enough to imagine unhappy souls still looking for their lost love along every bend of the long winding hallways. The foreboding outside walls and the emptiness of the premises definitely add to this feeling and enhance it.

Maybe I have read Tagore's The Hungry Stone (Khudito Pashan), a few too many times and this fort is so conducive to such historical fiction worldwide.

I really enjoyed this trip very much and now it is time to start planning for our next adventure.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Wednesday - sightseeing in Gwalior.

On our last day of in these parts of India, the plan is to visit the Gwalior Fort and other attractions in Gwalior.

We had a dedicated guide for Gwalior, Rizvi. He was very helpful and pleasant, glad he was with us. He appeared to be very dedicated to the sites, and kept gently and politely chiding other tourists when he noticed any wrongdoing.

Our first stop was the Gwalior Fort and it was every bit as magnificent as I expected it to be and even more.

We entered through the Urwahi gate, same as we did last night.

It is a small wonder that Babar, who invaded India, started the Mugal Dynasty, and hated all things Indian was in such awe of the fort that he left it intact.

The fort has changed hands many times, from the Tomars to the Mughals to the Marathas and then the British.

The Gwalior fort finally went to the Scindias, the British. The Scindias are the present ruling family.

The Man Singh Palace is the best attraction in the fort. It was built by Tomar Man Singh in the 15th century. It was in the same palace where the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb imprisoned and later murdered his brother Murad. Other significant palaces within the Gwalior Fort include the Karan Palace, the Jahangir Mahal, the Shah Jahan Mahal and the Gujri Mahal.

There are two temples within the fort with beautiful carvings.

The Sas Bahu Temple and Teli-ka-Mandir. The latter is the most famous of all the temples of the Gwalior fort.

Sas means mother in law and Bahu daughter in law. Interestingly the mother in law's temple is quite a bit bigger than the one for the daughter in law.

Teli-ka-Mandir literally means the temple of oil, this was named such because the temple was built by a business man who made his money in oil trading.

Both temples were built around the 9th century.

As we came down we saw some beautiful Jain carvings on the fort wall.

We proceeded on to Gujari Mahal, this the palace built by Man Singh for his favorite queen, Mrignayani.

Gujari Mahal is now a museum with artifacts from all over MP (Madhya Pradesh). There are many beautiful ones, but the highlight was the "Mona Lisa" of India, kept under tight security.

These type of statues are typically found in the village of Gyaraspur near Vidisha.

Our next stop was Tansen's Tomb. Mian Tansen (born 1493 or 1506 as Ramtanu Misra – died 1586 or 1589 as Tansen) was a prominent Indian classical music composer, musician and vocalist, known for a large number of compositions.

He was among the Navaratnas (nine jewels) at the court of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. Akbar gave him the title Mian, meaning learned man.

Went back to the hotel to freshen up and have lunch.

After lunch, we visited the Jai Vilas Palace established in 1874 by Jayajirao Scindia, the then Maharaja of Gwalior and is still the residence of his descendants.

The European architecture of the palace was designed and built by Sir Michael Filose, a French architect.

A part of the Palace is now a museum with the royal collection. It was an anti climax after the morning's trip, and we came back shortly to rest and pack up for tomorrow's travel to Kolkata.

Today's narrative has been the most difficult to write for me, everything we saw in the morning was beautiful, interesting and steeped in history.

The "Fort Trip" is over unfortunately and tomorrow we will fly to Kolkata to visit friends and relatives.

This has overall been a fabulous trip and I am glad we decided to do it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Tuesday November 3 - Orchha Datia Gwalior

Today we will be going to Gwalior after seeing the sights in Orchha and visiting Datia on the way.

Our first stop was the chhatris (mausoleum). There are 14 chhatris on the river, the most famous is that of Madhukar Shah, the first Maharaja of Orchha.

We proceeded to the Orchha Fort and went to the Raja Mahal first and then the Jehangir Mahal

Jehangir Mahal was built for Emperor Jehangir, who came from Agra to stay one night. The place was supposedly never used again.

There are very many beautiful fresco paintings on the walls of this fort.

This fort is under restoration as well and there seems to be some thought put into the process.

From the Orchha Fort we left for Datia. Datia has an unique fort, it is a perfect rectangle. It is 7 stories high and was occupied for only one night and then abandoned.

The king decided to go back to Orchha and rule from there. This is a newer fort, built in 1623. This fort also has some unique sculptures inside.

We climbed 3 of the 7 stories, the steps were high and the passage dark. Three stories were difficult enough.

We had a nice English speaking young guide with us and that made it better yet.

We then made our way to Gwalior, our stop for the night.

The road was under construction and it took us a good 2 hours; the trip should normally take an hour and fifteen minutes or so.

In Gwalior we are staying at the Usha Kiran Palace. This used to be an actual palace built for the king's special guests. It was built around 128 years back and remains the way it looked then.

Too bad we are only staying here 2 nights. It's a beautiful hotel with working wifi and the staff is courteous, helpful and pleasant. What more would one want in a hotel?

Planning to go see the Light and Sound Show at the Gwalior Fort before heading for dinner.

The show was very well done, it filled in some gaps I had in my knowledge of Indian history.

Time to have Biriyani and retire for the night.

Location:Usha Kiran Palace - Gwalior

Monday, November 2, 2015

Monday November 2

Our plans for today are to visit the historic forts of Chanderi and Deogarh.

It was a good 3.5 to 4 hours drive to Chanderi, the roads were reasonable except for the last half an hour where the road was under construction.

Our guide here was a youngster named Musulmin Answari. He was soft spoken, knowledgeable, and helpful.

The Chanderi Fort has 7 gates but not all of them are accessible any more. We stopped at the Badal Mahal Gate first, which was built in 1445.

There is much more to see in Chanderi than the fort itself. We started seeing the sights in the sequence that our guide recommended.

Our next stop was at the Jama Masjid, built at the same time and prayers are still held there.

Then came Koushak Mahal, this was a 7 story structure built for a seven day celebration after a major victory, and abandoned since then.

We moved on to Kati Ghati, this was supposedly built in one day by cutting into the rock to get a vantage point on the fort.

Then came Jain temples, Khandargiri, these are also built into the rocks.

Now it was time to see the Fort itself. This Fort is being restored correctly and has been well maintained by the MP government archeological society

Our next stop was Roza, another mausoleum, this time for a women.
She was killed by her father for wanting to marry a soldier in the king's army. There were 3 graves in it, two women and a child but no documentation exists on who the other two are.

It was now time to leave Chanderi, a place definitely worth visiting.

We grabbed a bite to eat at MP government tourist lodge where they made a tasty egg curry fresh for us. Interestingly the egg was boiled and curried as opposed to boiled, fried, and then curried as is the norm in Kolkata.

After lunch we proceeded to Deogarh.

Chanderi and Deogarh are on opposite sides of the Betwa river but since there is no way across, the trip actually takes two hours on a very bumpy road.

At Deogarh we were quite surprised and even somewhat disappointed. There is actually no fort, just walls of carving in solid rock. There were definitely beautiful but we somehow expected them inside a fort.

We left in an hour or so and it was a long drive back to Amar Mahal, where we arrived tired, late, and hungry.

Had a quick dinner and retired for the night shortly after.

Location:Amar Mahal

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Sunday November 1

Today's plans are sightseeing around Orchha and Jhansi and then come back to Amar Mahal.

Our first stop was the Ala Udal 's guru's temple on the way to Samthar Palace/Fort.

The Samthar Fort is almost inaccessible through some small villages and narrow roads.

We managed to find it after stopping to ask for directions many times.

Rarjit Singh Juda - present king of Sampthar, still lives here but was away in Lucknow. He has leased part of the unused section to the local police for using as their quarters.

From the outside, the palace looks pretty dilapidated, maybe the inside is all renovated. Wish we could go inside.

There wasn't much to see here and definitely could have been skipped.

We then went to the Jhansi Fort, which was built in 1613 but had no significant history until 1853, when the widowed Queen Rani Lakshmi Bai reluctantly at first but then with fiery courage took on the British.

As mentioned in the Forts of India by Virginia Fass - The visitor to Jhansi comes not so much to view the walls and battlements and deserted terraces as to be touched by the spirit of the place.

This is very true, there are many other better forts visually but standing here one can distinctly feel the courage and spirit of Rani Lakshmi Bai as she charged on horse back dressed as a man using her sword with both hands and holding the reins of the horse in her mouth.

I am glad I got a chance to see this fort. I have probably read everything on her when I was growing up and have been in utter awe of her as has been generations of women who knew about her.

Our next stop was some distance away and so we decided to stop for lunch at a local hotel/restaurant called Sreenath Palace. The food was very tasty and the people warm and friendly. I am glad we decided to stop here.

After lunch we proceeded on to Talbehat Fort. This is yet another magnificent fort from the eleventh century and pretty much in ruins. I was glad to see some restoration work is taking place.

We reached the top after a steep climb and it was easy enough to visualize its splendor before it was abandoned.

We had plans to take a boat ride and take pictures of the Fort from the lake, but it was getting to be evening and so decided to skip it.

At Orchha we stopped at the Chaturbhuja temple before going back to Amar Mahal.

Will be freshening up and going for dinner shortly.

The restaurant is crowded and noisy today. There are large tour groups here, we were hoping to have a quiet dinner but no such luck.

The wifi here is so weak that it is getting frustrating, oh well one can't have everything I guess.

Back to our room to retire for the night.

Location:Amar Mahal - Orchha

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Saturday October 31 - Khajuraho to Orchha via Garkundarh Fort

Left the hotel in good time and decided take a short detour and visit the Eastern Temples, which are the Jain Temples.

I am glad we decided to take this detour, the carvings are just as gorgeous as the west side.

We spent about half an hour and then started towards Garkundarh Fort. The road was good but long and it took us almost three and a half hours, a few wrong turns, some unfinished or broken roads and finally got the first glimpse of the fort. It was just as awe inspiring as the pictures.

We were fortunate to get a very knowledgeable, pleasant, and passionate security guard/guide, who showed us around with a lot of enthusiasm and taking his time.

What a fantastic fort, it is being restored by the state government of MP and great efforts are being made to closely match the original.

This is a must see (that is if you do not get hopelessly lost trying to find it). Pictures do not do justice to it.

We left reluctantly and proceeded to Amar Mahal at Orchha, our home for the next three nights.

Freshened up, had a light lunch and decided to rest for the remainder of the afternoon.

This is a nicely laid out hotel with very large suites but unfortunately it lacks maintenance in some critical areas. They do come and fix the problem, if it is easy enough to do so. They changed our suite since they couldn't repair the low water pressure in our original one.

Walked around the grounds some, found out that our room was too far from the office area for the wifi, so I was limited to the common areas. The reception was kind enough to allow me to log in on their private network for better speed and less congestion, I was impressed.

Pretty soon it was time for dinner. A group was performing folk dancing on the grounds and we stopped and watched for a bit.

The meals were not as tasty as in the previous two places but they were perfectly edible.

Time to retire for the night, we have plans to visit one of my favorite forts tomorrow, the Jhansi Fort. Looking forward to it.

Location:Amar Mahal - Orchha

Friday, October 30, 2015

Friday October 30 - Panna/Mahoba/Chakrahari/Khajuraho

Today we will be leaving the forest and the rural areas to return to Khajuraho. We will be visiting a few historical sites on the way. It promises to be a pretty full and informative day.

Mahoba and Charkahri are rich in history but unfortunately not much of it remains, specially in Mahoba.

We picked up a local person in Mahoba who showed us around. We saw the Rahiliya Temple or the remains of it. It was destroyed by the marauding invaders led by Qutub-ud-din Aibek.

There is reconstruction going on but typical of ASI not much effort is being made to match the existing buildings.

We also saw Gokhagiri, Ram Kundh, Madan Sagar, Kirti Sagar. None of them are worth visiting or writing about.

We then proceeded on to Charkahri. Unfortunately the Fort has been taken over by the military and visitors are not allowed inside or even near it any more.

We were allowed to visit the palace which is in a sad state and again not worth visiting.

We returned to Khajuraho and checked into the hotel.

While we were having tea, the chef came to talk to us. The employees of this hotel are very personable, friendly, and helpful.

We had a nice chat with the chef and decided on our two items for dinner.

We rested for a bit freshened up and then went to dinner. The biriyani for me and the Mutton Rogan Josh for Sudip was excellent. The chef came over to find out how everything was and the servers were very attentive.

Our stay here has been very pleasant both times.

Time to retire for the night. Long day ahead of us tomorrow.

Location:Radisson Khajuraho