Beauty of Swaminarayan Temple in Nagpur – Through the eyes of an art lover

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With a long weekend at hand, the call to explore picks steam. How can a traveller in me ignore such an inner call? So I pick up my bag, stuff a book, carefully fill a lunch box and make way towards my destination. As someone rightly said, anticipation heightens the excitement of the unknown. Here I was heading to the opposite side of the city to see a landmark I had long planned to visit, the famous Swaminarayan Temple in Nagpur.
My plan was to explore the place, take a few snaps and find a quiet place under a tree, eat the packed lunch I carried and settle down to read a book. Getting to the place was easier than I thought.

The Swaminarayan Temple in Wathoda, Nagpur is situated on the busy Ring Road. It is one of the most beautifully created masterpieces in modern times. Even though I had seen pictures of the temple earlier but the grandeur and beauty of the magnificent edifice in person was something else. Intricate carvings on pink sandstone adorn the walls of the temple, the craftsmanship and creativity of the kind rarely seen in modern times. Delicate stone craftsmanship is a dying art in India but I am so happy to see it in all grandeur here.

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Nagpur’s Swaninarayan temple is a perfect example of greatest form of artistic expression in stone, which is sure to win your heart. The sprawling and well maintained complex with right amount of greenery is a treat to the eyes. The temple rests on a raised platform with five huge domes on top. A flight of stairs take us to a platform from where one can get a complete and breathtaking view of the temple. The beautiful idols made of fine marble adorn the temple. Beautifully crafted figurines on the walls of the temple simply took my breath away.  The temple complex in Nagpur is one of the biggest of all the Swaminarayan temple’s in the world. Landscape gardens, book stall, Food court, children’s play area and resting rooms for sadhus complete the infrastructure.

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After a tour of the sprawling complex and admiring the fine craftsmanship, I found a bench under one of the chhatris in the complex to sit and enjoy my book. This chhattri or canopy gave me a good view of the temple and the gardens below. I spent some hours just lazing and occasionally glancing around to take in the beauty of the serene and quiet surroundings.

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           CEILING

                                Ceiling of the temple – Courtesy – BAPS.org                  sukhshaiyaf

                                 Beautiful golden work inside the temple -Courtesy – BAPS.org

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The place is open all days, the only glitch are the timings. Be careful as the temple is open to public only between 8 in the morning to 12 noon and then from 4 in the evening to 8 at night. There is a cafeteria inside and outside food is not allowed within the complex. Photography is prohibited inside the temple and there is a good locker facility to keep your hand luggage in custody.

In all a very relaxing and a must visit place in Nagpur.and a great boast to Nagpur’s tourism circuit.

Vandana Muley

The writer is a publicist, blogger and travel writer and can be contacted on muley_vandana@yahoo.com

Chroniclizing Kumbha origins

Kumbha is the largest religious congregation in the world, held every 12 years by rotation in one of the four cities of India; namely Haridwar, Allahabad or Pragyag, Nasik and Ujjain. Kumbha which is held once in 144 years in Prayag or Allahabad is called the Mahakumbha.
Origin of Kumbha
According to the legend, gods and asuras during the churning of the ocean or Samudra Manthan found a pot of divine nector believed to provide immortality to the drinker. The gods made a divine carrier carry away the pot to prevent asuras from laying hands on it. During the chase, a few drops of amrita fell on Haridwar, Pragyag, Nasik and Ujjain which are the present-day sites of the Kumbh Mela. The puranas or other ancient texts however do not have a mention of kumbha mela.
The available texts and the historical records fail to give an exact picture on the age of Kumbha. Earliest mention is the one in Haridwar followed by Pragyag and Nasik Trimbakeshwar. The mela at Haridwar appears to be the first to be called Kumbha as it is held when Jupiter enters the zodiac sign of Kumbha or Aquarius. The other earliest reference to Kumbh Mela is found in Khulasat-ut-Tawarikh in 1695 CE and Chahar Gulshan in 1759 CE which describes only Haridwar’s fair as Kumbha, though there is a mention of similar fairs being held in Allahabad and Nashik.
The Magh Mela of Allahabad is probably the oldest among the four fairs kinding mention in several Puranas. However, its transition onto Kumbha and the 12-year cycle probably dates back to the mid-19th century. The first British reference to the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad occurs in an 1868 report, which mentions the need for increased pilgrimage and sanitation controls at the “Coomb Fair” to be held in January 1870. So in all probability the local community in order to increase the importance of their Tirth adopted the Kumbha tradition of Haridwar with their pre-existing melas.
Origin of Kumbha in Ujjain
Kumbha in Ujjain is supposed to have started in the eighteenth century by the then Maratha ruler Renkoji Shinde of the Scindia dynasty of Gwalior. Renkoji invited ascetics from Nashik to visit a festival Panchkroshi Yatra held by the local community in Ujjain in the month of Vaishakha. As per ancient traditions, a sequential viewing of all 84 Mahadev temples in and around Ujjain is conducted as part of this yatra. Ujjain is home to one of the twelve Jyotrilinga’s in the form of Mahakal – the Lord of all Times, it is a place where according to the legend few drops of divine amrita had fallen and one of the Saptapuris, the seven holy cities of India that grant Moksha or liberation from the cycle of birth and death. Realizing the immense religious significance of Ujjain, the sages accepted Renkoji’s invitation. As the Panchkroshi Yatra conveniently fell at the end of Nashik Kumbha, a large number of ascetics started visiting the festival in Ujjain too. This drew ordinary people to the fair as well, increasing its popularity over the time, which probably ultimately led to naming the festival as Simhastha kumbha. The kumbha in Ujjain starts on the full moon day of Hindu month of Chaitra when Jupiter enters the sun sign of Leo or the Simha constellation of zodiac, hence the name Simhastha. The mela continues till the next full moon day of the following month of Vaishakha. Though, the exact date of renaming cannot be traced but as per the records of the British government, it must be somewhere in the late nineteenth century. Earlier the Scindias organized kumbha in Ujjain, however in later years its organization and management slowly changed hands.
Untill the East India Company took over the management and administration of Kumbha, the Melas were managed by the dominant akhadas of that time. These sadhus collected taxes, carried out policing and judicial duties. They also participated in trade and were heavily militarized. These melas have had a history of sectarian politics and a long record of clashes between different participating sects. The bone of contention many times among other reasons was the right to be the first to take a dip in the holy river during shahisnan days. Being organizers some akhadas asserted their first right to shahi snan. This demand gained importance because over the years the sequence in which each Akhada was allowed to enter the waters came to be associated with the rank or status their sect enjoyed among all akhadas. These and many other interests led to violent clashes between different sects of sadhus.
The 1760’s Haridwar Kumbha resulted in hundreds of death due to clashes between Shaivite Gosains and Vaishnavite Bairagis. A copperplate inscription of the Maratha Peshwa claims that twelve thousand ascetics died in a clash at the 1789 Nashik Kumbha. The 1796 Kumbha in Haridwar saw Shaivites attacking and injuring the Udasis for erecting a camp without their permission. The retaliatory response of the Khalsa Sikhs accompanying the Udasis led to many sadhus getting killed from both sides. The East India Company after this incident severely limited the trader-warrior role of the sadhus who were reduced to the status of mere pilgrims. Different measures initiated by the administration in later editions of kumbha led to significantly reduce clashes between different sects of sadhus.
Highlights of Kumbha
Besides the religious significance, historically the Kumbh Melas were also major commercial events. A large number of people of different religions visited the mela. British civil servant Robert Montgomery Martin describes the 1858 Haridwar Kumbh Mela as a congregation of Hindu pilgrims as well as visitors like priests, soldiers, merchants, including horse traders from Bukhara, Kabul, Turkistan, Arabia and Persia. He records the visit of several Hindu and Sikh rulers and Muslim Nawabs visiting the fair as well as some Christian missionaries preaching at the Mela.
One of the highlights of Kumbha Mela even today is the Peshwai Procession, which marks the arrival of the people belonging to a particular akhadas or sect in a grand procession. Each procession sees the chief of the Akhadas mounted atop a beautifully decorated vahan led by his group of disciples dancing to the sound of manjiras, dhols and singing hyms in the praise if the lord. The air is filled with frequent full throated chants of Har Har Mahadev. The path towards the bathing ghats is jam packed with lakhs of people thronging the route to witness the grand procession move towards the ghats of Kshripra. The order of entering the waters is fixed, the Juna’s are the first, followed by the Niranjani then Mahanirvani and then the other akhadas follow. The holy dip starts at an opportune time at sunrise, people offer abulations to the Sun god, pray for atonement for their sins and grant of Moksha from the cycle of life and death. The pilgrims then make way for the darshan of the Mahakal, the Kshetradhipati of Ujjain. There are atleast three to four auspicious days for shahi snan during the month when people in lakhs take part in these rituals.
Another important aspect of Kumbha is the Darshan of the holy men. The pilgrims seek instructions or advice in spirituality from these holy men and leave a token Dakshina at their feet. Darshan is important to the experience of the Kumbh as it is here that the general public gets to see and interact with the ascetics who normally live in their ashrams or in the high altitudes of the Himalayas.
Naga sadhus are the other very famous participants of kumbha. The Nagas call themselves Shaiv Panthis and are the warrior sadhus, carrying a weapon as they lead the procession for Shahisnan. Naga meaning naked is a sign of separation or sanyas from the material world. These ash smeared sadhus remain completely naked even while living in the extremely low temperatures of the Himalayas. The other sadhus wear loose cotton robe of saffron or white colour, smear ash on their bodies and adorn themselves with Rudraksha Mala and garland of flowers. The kumbha is also frequented by the Hat Yogis, who subject themselves to years of hard penance and yoga to achieve unique control over breathing and the other parts of their bodies. Hat yog is a way of physical purification of body to prepare it for higher meditation. Each Hat Yogi displays some unique power or characteristics they have mastered as a result of years of sadhana.
Modern day Kumbha
Being a mega event, kumbha requires participation of various governmental and nongovernmental organizations to make it a success. A city within a city is created for lakhs of visiting pilgrims. Facilities like tents for accommodation, water for drinking and daily use, stalls for food, medicines, traffic control and management, maintaining hygiene and garbage disposal, policing and law and order, building infrastructure to handle a rush of more than 1 crore pilgrims visiting kumbha over the one month period is a major challenge. Crowd management is essentially the most function of the government machinery as various editions of kumbha have seen many mishaps due to presence of sheer number of pilgrims on the days of the shahisnan. Incidents of death due to stampede, overcrowding or collapse of the connecting bridges, unhygienic living conditions in the camps, spread of diseases like cholera, diahorrea, typhoid etc have over shadowed government’s efforts to provide a safe and successful kumbha. Inspite of the numerous difficulties, kumbha attracts large numbers of pilgrims in each of its editions.
The faith of the people attending the kumbha can be summed effectively in the words of Mark Twain who after visiting the 1895 kumbha wrote “It is wonderful, the power of a faith like that, that can make multitudes upon multitudes of the old and weak and the young and frail enter without hesitation or complaint upon such incredible journeys and endure the resultant miseries without repining. It is done in love, or it is done in fear; I do not know which it is. No matter what the impulse is, the act born of it is beyond imagination, marvelous to our kind of people, the cold whites.”
Compiled by Vandana Muley

Everything you wanted to know about how roar returned in Panna

                                   Tigers Back in Panna – Panna Roars Again

                              https://vandanamuleyblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/05/panna-roars-again/

Panna National park was established in 1981 and declared a tiger reserve in 1994. Situated around 25 kms from Khajuraho in Panna and Chhatrapur districts of Madhya Pradesh, it is one of the most beautiful tiger reserves of the country. Spread across 547 sq kms of core forest area and the 1,002 sq km buffer area it is rich in flora and fauna with deciduous forest and savanna type of grasslands. River Ken winds its way from south to north through the park. The park is home to several wild animals, notable being tigers, leopards, wolf, hyena, sloth bear, sambar, deers, chital, nilgai, chinkara and more than 200 species of birds
Of all the wild animals present here, Panna is famous for its Tigers. The majestic tiger in its natural habitat with black stripes on yellow, dull yellow or orange base is the most alluring sight one can see in wild. In 2007, Panna Tiger reserve was awarded as the best maintained national park of India  by the Ministry of Tourism, India. At that times it was home to 24 tigers. But by 2009 the entire tiger population of the reserve got wiped out, partly by poachers, partly by local villagers and some died due to old age and illness. As a result post 2009 only one male tiger was left in the entire reserve. This was a big setback to Panna Tiger Project which had earlier seen many tigers roaming freely in the forest.
Project to increase the tiger population in Panna was taken up in all earnestness by the forest department and two tigresses T1 from Kanha and T2 from Bandhavgarh were brought here. But by the time they reached Panna, the one male tiger of the reserve had disappeared. Those were the days when radio collaring was not implemented in the reserve and so movement of the tiger could not be tracked.
At the same time two female clubs T4 and T5 who were orphans were brought here from Kanha . They were reared in a facility created specially for them and  given a wild rearing so as to make their relocation to the forests easy.
Meanwhile Tiger T3 was brought from Pench to give company to the two adult tigresses in Panna. The staffers waited with bated breaths to see if T1, T2 and T3 adjusted to their new surroundings. Soon after its arrival T3 tried to escape back to Pench. To prevent T3 from crossing over to Pench  a ‘Urine technique’ was used to gain his attention and entice him to stay put in Panna. Urine of tigresses of Bhopal zoo was sprayed in the forest and in T3’s cage before he was released in the wild in december 2009. The technique worked and T3 trailed the scent across the forest and met T4 within four days of his release. Time, efforts and perseverance of the forest department staffers bore fruits and their joy  knew no bounds when T1 gave birth to four healthy cubs. T3 later sired four cubs with T2 in October 2010. The reserve was now brimming with 11 tigers for the first time since 2009.
T4 and T5 cubs brought from Pench were reared by Panna authorities for 18 months and now time came to release them in the wild, where they truly belonged. But their release led to a feeling of anticipation among the staffers regarding their chances of surviving in the wild. They had to pass the crucial test of learning to hunt on their own, coexist with other tigers and breed. The urine technique was again used to unite T3 with T4 in 2011. T4 was till then still new to the wild and had still not learnt to make a kill on her own, also she had never been with a male tiger before. The staffers feared for the survival of T4 in the wild. However the awkwardness between T3 and T4 slowly gave way to intimacy and in T3’s company our tigress T4 learnt to hunt on her own. This small but very important success marked the completion of the first phase of relocation of tigers in Panna.
The success of the first phase gave foresters courage to start the second phase. In second phase T6 an adult tiger from Pench was brought in to see if more cats could make Panna their home and coexist with earlier relocated tigers. It was a relief for the team to see T6 adapting to the new environment quickly. T6 not only adapted to the new  environment but also started mating with the other females of the reserve. Since then the two male tigers have sired more than 18 cubs between them. Today the tiger count in Panna has increased and as per the latest Tiger census of 2014 there are 32 tigers in Panna. These include not only the relocated tigers living here but first generation of tigers born in Panna out of relocated tigers who have now grown up and are breeding to give second generation of tigers.
The majestic tiger which had just a decade back become extinct in Panna is now regularly sighted by the tourists visiting the reserve. The hard work put in by the forest department, relocation of the villagers to the periphery of the reserve and sensitizing them about the need to preserve wild life has finally borne results.
 Best Time to Visit
Panna has tropical weather and the best time to visit is from 1st October to 30th  of June. The reserve remains closed for public from 1 July to 30th september due to rainy season.
How to reach
Panna Tiger Reserve is well connected by road from Khajuraho, Satna and Jhansi. Nearest airport is Khajuraho. Nearest railway station is Khajuraho at 46 Kms and Satna at 74 Kms.
 Where to stay
There are many good places offering decent and good accommodation in Malda near Panna. Jungle Camp Malda by M P Tourism at Malda offers excellent facilities and value for money for a comfortable stay in swiss style AC cottages. A restaurant serving authentic food satiates the taste buds and keeps our tummies full and mind happy.
For reservations please contact – M P Tourism, Nagpur – 0712 – 24423778
By Vandana Muley
The Writer is a blogger, travel writer and owner of PR Agency – Mercury PR in Nagpur. She can be contacted on muley_vandana@yahoo.com

The unexplored tourist destination in India – The surreal world of Hanuwantiya

 

Hanuwantiya a small town in Khandwa district of Madhya Pradesh is home to Indira Sagar dam on Narmada river, one of the biggest man made reservoirs in Asia. Nagpur and Indore are the closest cities at an approximate distance of around 350 and 130 kms respectively. Hanuwantiya is being promoted as one of the leading water and adventure tourism destination in India by the Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation. Country’s first and truly mega annual event Jal Mahotsav is being organized here from 12 to 21 Feb. The 10 day extravaganza aims to showcase the state’s rich and colorful culture through art, craft, folk music, dance and its exotic local cuisine.

The reservoir on Indira sagar dam presents a beautiful picture, the area is surrounded by lush greenery and picture perfect locales. 92 tiny islands dot the waters of the vast lake providing a perfect ambience for a luxurious holiday in the company of family and friends. The unending expanse of the reservoir, its azure blue waters, small lush green islands dotting the landscape provide innumerable opportunity to explore the adventurous side of one’s personality. A boat cruise takes the tourist’s on a crisscross ride through the tiny islands giving a chance to watch different varieties of birds. Come evening the descending sun gives the lake a shining golden hue  inviting people to embrace the nature’s fine moment. Sun rise and sun sets see many tourists thronging the popular sites to enjoy the breath taking sight and soak in the cool breeze. Star gazing facilities provided by the Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation during clear nights give people an opportunity to watch stars from close quarters. Night camping in tents and swiss cottages lining the lakeside is the best one can get close to nature. Bonfire and cultural entertainment programmes in the evenings complete the experience.

The mornings are a host to lot of activities starting from bird watching, trekking and treasure hunt. Breakfast is followed by a round of adventure sports like artificial wall climbing, Burma bridge, rope drill and kite flying for the enthusiasts. Wind surfing and para sailing give a chance to fly like a bird, a treat for water lovers in form of water and jet skiing, banana boat ride and water zorbing add to the fun. A ride in the Hot air balloon is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get a bird’s eye view of the beautiful landscape below.
The unexplored and exotic islands in Hanuwantiya also provide a perfect getaway for people wanting to relax and spend time with nature in quiet surroundings. Morning yoga sessions and lazy afternoons in the company of loved ones along the lakeside is a great way to unwind and experience peace and tranquility away from the hustle bustle of life.

  How to reach Hanuwantiya?Hanuwantiya situated near Mundi on Nagpur Betul Khandwa road is well connected by road, train and air from Nagpur and Indore.

Best time to visitFrom November to February temperature here range from 8 to 20 degrees Celsius. With mostly clear skies, gentle cool breeze and pleasant weather during this time of the year, its perfect time to visit Hanuwantiya. March sees a little rise in temperature but it is generally pleasant. Jal Mahotsav in Hanuwantiya beckons the adventure lovers to explore the unexplored

Contact:0712-2442378/3259000 Nagpur

Bhagoria – The Tribal Festival of India

                       Bhagoria revelry still lingers

 Walpur, District Alirajpur, Madhya Pradesh, India

‪#‎Bhagoria‬ or ‘Bhoguria’ is an annual ‪#‎festival‬ celebrated by the Bhils, Bhilala’s, Patliya’s and other tribal communities of Alirajpur, Jhabua and surrounding districts of Madhya Pradesh in Central India.

The festival is celebrated every year a week before Holi. A fair is held in different villages of the region each day for six days in a row. Most of the tribals here are labourer’s working in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and other parts of Madhya Pradesh. These people return to their native villages for harvesting in the month of March. The fair is a celebration of their homecoming, end of harvesting and the start of the wedding season. 

Importance of Bhagoria can be gauged by the fact that every household looks forward to participating in the fair. Preparations start weeks in advance with young boys and girls buying new clothes and jewellery especially for the ocassion. 

The fair is a treat to watch and is every photographer’s delight. Rainbow of colours descend upon the place turning it into an oasis of colours in an otherwise barren land. It is a sight to watch young tribal girls decked up in colourful dresses, adorned with loads of beautiful silver jewellery enter the fair in groups, escorted by an elder of the community. Each group of women belonging to a particular village wear same colour clothes.The male and female escorts wear the same colour outfit as that of the group so as to make themselves easily identifiable in a crowd.

                                                           Significance of Bhagoria

There are different versions on the significance of Bhagoria , one being a place to un wind and enjoy as is done in any village fair. People come to the fair to buy jewellery, clothes, article made from bamboo, utensils, fruits, etc. There are rides to enjoy, people get themselves tattooed The other version is that the fair is used as a meeting place by young boys and girls. A boy may propose to the girl he likes by offering a Pan, if the girl reciprocates the feelings then she shows her willingness by accepting the Pan so offered and both apply red powder ( Gulal ) on each other’s face. Thereafter both may or may not decide to elope, depending upon how the girl feels her family would react to the match.
In case they decide to elope, the boy takes the girl to his house where his choice of bride is accepted by all and the marriage is usually solemnized after Holi. The period before marriage is used by both the parties to test compatibility. The girl has liberty to back off if she does not want to go ahead with marriage and goes back to her parents house. 

Men dance to the beat of drums and dhols. Taadi a juice of palm wine tree is consumed by people of all age groups in this part of the region. Collecting taadi and selling it to the people passing by the village is probably the main occupation of the people here as the land is barren with very less agriculture. 

The people here have started to realised the importance of education and in young generation are studying in schools and colleges of the neighbouring districts, Girls out number boys in this field.

As our day came to an end we left Bhagoria with colourful memories and a promise to return next year.

Bhagoria festival promoted by M P Tourism provides excellent arrangements for a comfortable stay in a camp site near Walpur. With cultural entertainment programs held in the camp for tourists in the evening we got a glimpse of the traditional dance and music as well.

Beauty of Jahangir Mahal, Orchha, Madhya Pradesh, India

Side view of Jahangir Mahal Orchha

Jahangir Mahal, Orchha

Jahangir Mahal, Orchha, Madhya Pradesh, India
Story of Jahangir Mahal goes as such…
Akbar dispatched his son Prince Jahangir, Abdul Hasan Asaf Khan and Abu’l-Fazl Ibn Mubarak to capture the city of Orchha,which was in the forefront of revolt against the Mughals. Jahangir arrived with a strong force and after many ferocious battles made the Bundela King Vir Singh Deo surrender with an undertaking never to break an alliance with Akbar.
Jahangir Mahal was built in 17 century AD in the honour of the visit of Prince Jahangir to Orchha subsequent to the signing of the pact.
Vir Singh Deo later killed Abu’l-Fazl Ibn Mubarak in the year 1602, during Jahangir’s succession to the Mughal throne and remained a fugitive until his death.