About me

Am a contradiction of sorts. i love going out and having a good time with friends, and i can also stay home chill out over a book or a movie..

Am very passionate about writing, so give me a topic and watch me float away into wonderland... Love reading books- sometimes i read 3books simultaneously, crazy about music- need it all around me, all the time and ofcourse, i totally am ga ga goo goo over my 7yr old naughty brat- Floppy!! errr, Prince Floppy!! :)

Monday, January 7, 2019

Architecture, history and more at Orchha

The historic town of Orchha, [the capital of the Bundela Rajput Kings] situated right along the banks of River Betwa, was founded back in the 16th century by Rudra Pratap, the Bundela Rajput Chief. We had booked a tent at Betwa Retreat [it is a Madhya Pradesh Tourism hotel, the place is very good and I highly recommend it], near the river. Since it a small town, most of the sight seeing worthy places are within a kilometers, with the Cenotaphs [ Chatris] just around the corner from the property.

We decided to spend the evening exploring the property and area around, and next morning was set aside to explore the town... Some of the interesting places to visit while in Orchha are, 

Raja Mahal [ Orchha Fort]

The Raja Mahal is a fine example of Mughal architecture with typical stone jali (lattice) work and multifaced arches at the entrance. The palace is in the shape of a perfect square that is further divided into two courtyards. The main courtyard is flanked by the palace which has a four-storeyed building at one end of it.

The other three sides have five-storeyed apartments. The Raja Mahal's facade is simplicity personified with hardly any ornamental detailing, but the interiors house some splendid paintings. The outer courtyard has some beautiful arches arranged in floral patterns and carved out in lime mortar. 

Inside the Mahal, the two places worth a look are the Durbar-e-Khas and the Diwan-i-Am. The Durbar-e-Khas, or the Durbar Hall sits on the 1st floor of the palace 

The Diwan-i-Am is an assembly hall where the king often held meetings with his council of ministers. 

The hall has three platforms, and from the highest one, the king held forth on affairs of the state. The Diwan-i-Am has massive columns and the ceiling has been decorated with paintings belonging to the Mughal and the Bundela schools of art. The exterior of the palace is decorated with elephant and lotus-shaped brackets. The entire architecture of the Raja Mahal is exquisite and speaks loftily of the stone carvers who sculpted it.

Also inside the same complex is the Jahangir Mahal..This property was built to honor Jahanghir on his first visit to Orchha. Similar to the Raja Mahal, the fort consists of some breath taking sculptures, hanging balconies, delicate trellis and chhatris, topped domes, etc. Built in 17th century by Bundela ruler, Bir Singh Deo, this palace is the symbol of friendship between the Bir Singh Deo and Jahangir. During the first visit of Jahangir in Orchha, this palace was built in his honor. Right next to it is a smaller building which has a room that used to be the Maharaja's bedroom. Today it is Hotel Sheesh Mahal, a hotel that also belongs to the same group that owns Betwa Retreat with Sound & light shows in the evening.. 

Raja mahal

Jahangir Mahal

Lakshmi Temple
Located atop a hill, near the Raja Mahal, the Lakshmi temple is very different from any other temple you would have visited. There was a guard at the entrance who told us that the main idol had been stolen few years back and some renovation was going on, so we had to be careful walking around the place. The place is a mix of Hindu & Islamic style of architecture, with long rooms on all 4 sides that are filled with interesting paintings on the walls and ceilings [these are called "Sgraffito",a kind of art work]. Apart from the vibrant canvas, there are these scratch paintings, which form a different section of art in the temple...the walls are painted brown with the design scratched off the walls.. There is also a tall tower of sorts along with a small tomb.  

Lakshmi temple

Chaturbhuj Temple: 

The Chaturbhuj temple at Orchha is a beauty.. We spotted it from the Fort and knew we had to visit. It is located right next to the Ram Raja Temple... The temple is built on a massive rock platform, and you need to climb a flight of steep steps to reach the main sanctum. The story is that the temple was built by Raja Madhukar in the 16th century for Lord Vishnu, who has four arms which is why the name. Legend has it that it was originally meant for Lord Rama, but that the King got overthrown and the idol now sits in Rani Niwas, the private residence of Raja Madhukar’s wife- Maharani Gansh Kunwar... 

Chaturbhuj Temple

Chhatris [Cenotaphs]: 
These were my first glimpse into Orchha, featured in a Maaza ad. Instead of being captivated by Katrina kaif, I couldnt stop looking at these that were the backdrop. The cluster of the Chhatris along the Kanchana Ghat of the Betwa River are structures that will have you curious and excited. They are memorials of the rulers of Orchha [going back to the 17th and 18th century]...There are about 14 cenotaphs inside one complex with structures similar to each other, some bigger and others with far more detailed intricate work on them. The one that stood out was Bir Singh's Cenotaph - it features Islamic style of architecture as well.. Today these cenotaphs are also home to the endangered Indian Vulture specie... We spotted quite a few, some sitting inside the mini structures and others on the spires and the walls around the place. 

Chhatris [Cenotaphs]

What is interesting is that we bought an entrance ticket of Rs10 per person of Indian origin [Rs250 for foreign visitors] at Raja Mahal and this ticket was valid across Raja mahal, Jahangir Mahal and Lakshmi temple as well. 

We we walked back to our hotel, the only thought on my mind was "damn, the past was packed with all kinds of adventures, wonder what it must have been like to live in that era...." well, it was time to pack our bags and head over to the next destination... Any guesses where? 

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Chasing tigers again... Panna National park, Madhya Pradesh..

After spending a few hours at Khajuraho, we headed towards Panna National park.. Time for more tigers, atleast hoping to sight a few!! :D Checked into the Panna Tiger Resort, which is located right next to river Ken [original name is Karnavati, which the British changed to Ken].. It is a beautiful property, with tents and rooms beyond the reception area. They have a restaurant on the top floor and a canopy area to chill in the evening, that faces the river. We switched rooms [moved to a much bigger room for the same rate, as we were three & needed an extra bed plus some space to walk around], to one that had a view of the river as we stepped out and settled in as our safari was only in the evening 3pm.. 

Soon, we had changed into safari gear [T-shirt, pants, cap/hat for the head, shawl for the neck and sweater/shrug to keep us warm].. Even though it was afternoon, it was cool and there were strong winds ... We reached the safari gate entrance and waited for the formalities to be completed and a guide to be assigned. And soon we were inside.. 

What is unique about Panna is that few years ago all the tigers here had been wiped out, thanks to poaching.. In 2009, a Tiger [T1] was brought here from Bandhavgarh..and then one more.. all this initiated by Field officer Sreenivasamurthy.. They then brought a male from pench.. but he ran away from here [nearly 450 KMs away]... The hunt began, and finally heard of a cow killed .  The tiger must have run 60-80kms a night. He was brought back and kept in enclosure and now lives in Panna. Of the 40 odd tigers at Panna today, about 12 have collars, so the officials can track their movements and ensure they are protected. There is T141 [a tigress who has cubs], T152, and few others... The numbers have been assigned in this format, if the code name is T111- The tiger is from another park[translocated], first tiger first litter first born [Mom number, litter number, baby order number] 

Each park is different - the landscape, the layout, and of course the way animals are tracked. Here too we did quite a bit of birding, while listening for calls and watching out for signs to tell us there were tigers around. But alas, that evening we saw none other than deer and the usual monkeys... We did spot quite a few exotic specie of Vultures, I even spotted few Indian grey hornbill and other birds which made it worthwhile.. The terrain here is very different from Corbett- some parts are open and dry, some with tall brown grass, while others are thick with trees and then some parts are green all over... 

We decided to do a night safari, a very spur of the moment decision. Had about an hour to refresh before heading back on the road. This time though the area we drove into was different from the morning one. We were 3 of us plus a guide, another forest safari official and the driver.. It was pitch dark, jeep headlights and powerful torch was all we had and we scouted around for anything that flashed and was red [ animal's eyes].. Spotted quite a few Wild boar, Jungle hare, 2 Civets but nothing more.. It was exciting, and there were moments when we stopped the jeep, turned off all alights and just sat still. The sky above was gorgeous, lit up with stars, it was like a carpet with little drops of silver... 
Wow, what an experience it was... 

The next morning we were again out and ready for the Safari, and that morning proved quite lucky. Within minutes of entering the park we saw an animal hop across, knew it wasnt a hare/rabbit, and well, it was a Jungle cat.. Such a cutie, did not scurry away...We managed to stop and click a few shots of it drinking water and sitting around waiting for something to snack on...  After about an hour inside, we heard from the tracking guys that there was a Tigress out on the prowl within a 3-5km radius... And then we saw a jeep drive ahead and stop. Pausing near them, we spotted the Tigress walking in the tall grass, she was well camouflaged and we could see her through the binocs. There was some movement in the grass indicating that she was walking along towards the thick portion of the forest. We watched her go and soon she disappeared into the thicket. It was then that the guide suggested we go see near the watering hole , as we drove along we saw fresh paw prints and heard animal calls as well. We waited for quite a well, until it was almost time to head out to the exit. As we drove down towards the exit gate, there was a open piece of land from where we got a full view of the water body below. We spotted another jeep and the guide called us over saying there was a tiger below. 

Woah, it was an amazing sight to see- the Tiger stood near the water and within a few yards from her stood a Nilgai, both absolutely still. After a few minutes, the tiger began drinking water and the Nilgai slowly moved away, inching literally. We stood there staring at them for a while, but had to make a move as it was time to exit the Park. The parks are all fairly strict about timings and if you default, it might not reflect well on the guide or the driver... 

Well, all in all I must say it was good run for me .. Two national parks, 4 tigers sighted apart from a zillion other birds and animals... As we left the park and made our way back to the room, the one thought on my mind was "I wonder what life must be like for these creatures, what they did all day and what they thought of us humans who came looking to spot them"... Oh well, it was time to pack and head to Orchcha...

 Serpent crested eagle

Palm Civet 

 Spot the tigress... there she goes.. ;o) 

The Grey Indian Hornbill

Vultures- Red headed,Himalayan & Long billed

Bear claw marks on a tree..

A Sambar deer duo crossing to the other side...

The jungle cat

The jungle cat

Spot the tiger- Standing on extreme left and then there is a Nilgai on the right side..

Nilgai standing to eat leaves..

 Online Booking for safaris - http://www.pannatigerreserve.in/