So from Jhansi, we decided to head to Chanderi... Now, these small towns have a certain charm about them, but on the other hand they are quite a pain when it comes to travel.. We had to take an auto from our hotel to the railway station, find a train heading to Lalitpur and then look for a bus that would head towards Chanderi. And from there find transport to the property we are staying at. That is exactly what we did, the last leg was an auto from Lalitpur station to bus stand and then a bus onward to Chanderi [ that took close to 2 hours, cos it stopped literally everywhere]. As we neared the bus stand, we told the bus conductor that we had to go to Kila Kothi [the map showed we were near the place], instantly the entire bus erupted in a "thats just a tourist sight seeing place, you probably referring to Tana bana which is down the road"... We literally had to calm the entire bus down, and then show them the property... After a few mins people settled down, and the conductor & another passenger[who was from Chanderi] helped us get an auto to go uphill to the place .. they were very sweet, the local guy infact helped us out a lot during the stay there :-)
This was one destination where we did not have too many choices for accommodation- it was either Kila Kothi or Tana Bana, both were MP Tourism properties. The photos and reviews of the former was what helped us decide. Kila Kothi is situated atop the hill, right next to the Chanderi Fort. It had just 4 rooms and the views were magical..Not very expensive, rooms were about Rs2500 per night... The minute we opened the door to our room we were floored, a huge four poster bed and a beautifully decorated space welcomed us in. We got a 360 degree view of the city below from the space beyond the dining area... and could also see the lit up Chanderi fort.. They are currently adding 2 more rooms! the only menace are the monkeys which deter you from sitting outside and having a meal.
Next morning, we had breakfast and walked over to the Chanderi Fort. Spent about 2 hours exploring the grounds.. We saw the main courtyard, the rooms within the main building before heading out to explore the rest of the space.
History of this town goes back to the 11th century when it was dominated by the trade routes of Central India and so the town became an important military outpost. Chanderi Fort, a vast Mughal fort, dominates the skyline of the lovely old town of Chanderi. One of the main sights within the fort is the "Khooni Darwaza". The prisoners are believed to have been thrown from the fortification above Khooni Darwaza and their bodies shattered to pieces below. As you walked beyond it along the Fort wall, there is a mandap of sorts at the far end- called Hawa Paur, from there you can see the entire city below, including the other gates of the fort. We dint quite get the purpose of this structure...
As we walked back to the hotel, we crossed a small memorial plaque of sorts. It is the Johar Smarak is an area that is located right outside the fort complex. It is here that women from the Rajput kingdom are believed to have self-immolated in fire (johar) by throwing themselves into Johal Tal after Medini Rai left to fight the battle with the Mughals. There is a stone plaque that depicts this situation inside a canopy towering over Johar Tal.
There is a Samadhi near the Johar Smarak. This belongs to Baiju Bawra, a renowned and celebrated musician. Born in Chanderi, he was a student of Swami Haridas of Vrindavan. It is said that he was fascinated by the town of Chanderi and composed a song on it as well.
We hopped in an auto we had hired for the day and told him to take us to the Battisi Baoli [ Battisi meaning 32 and this was known to have had 32 ghats for bathing].. By the time we reached the gates it had been quite an adventure, the auto went along an off beat path that was complete wilderness, with not a soul in sight anywhere around. There were no sign boards, no direction, just google maps and the auto guy's local knowledge.
Next up we headed uphill towards the Kati Ghati. Infact few days before we landed in Chanderi we watched the movie Stree in our hotel room, and it so happened the climax was shot right here at Kati Ghati. Known to be one of the gates of the Chanderi Fort, this is basically a gateway. It has been cut entirely out of living rock, is situated on the southern edge of Chanderi.. Sher Khan, son of the then Governor had commissioned this gate to be constructed to welcome the Sultan of Malwa, Ghiyas-ud-din Khilji. Kati Ghati gate is 80 feet high and 39 feet wide. Legend has it that the mason who built this found no hinges to install a gate subsequent to which Sher khan refused to pay him and the mason committed suicide right here... Cut out from a living rock, this is a linking route between Bundelkhand and Malwa. There is a tower like structure on one side with a flight of stairs taking you all the way to the top.
Badal Mahal Darwaza
We saw this structure from the Chanderi Fort and then sometime during the day we made our way to the place. There is a huge fort like wall and a door that opens to beautifully manicured garden. Almost at the end of the place is where the Badal mahal Darwaza stands tall. This gate was constructed by Sultan Mehmood Shah Khilji, the King of Malwa, in the 15th century & built to mark a significant victory. Badal Mahal Darwaza has a height of 100 ft. The structure features elaborate carvings and impressive motifs. The top of the gate features an arched design and two tall minarets stand guard on both sides.
What surprised me was that earlier in 2018 I had been to Odisha, where I went to the Udayagiri & Khandagiri cave temples. Here in Chanderi, I found places with the same name. We visited the Khandagiri temple, which is basically etched on a small hill where you will find the larger than life, 45 ft tall statue of the first Jain Tirthankara Rishabha/Adinath as you ascend the long flight of steps. Apart from this, we saw steps leading up the hill with what looked like more inscriptions and statues of other Tirthankaras across both sides of the hill. In total, there are 6 caves on the hill and some of the inscriptions in the caves are indication that the temple is over 700 years old. Monkeys are quite a menace here, deterring us from enjoying the place!
As we drove around town, we halted near a semi open gate that led us to another step well. Known to be among the largest among all Bawdis in Chanderi, the Chakla Bawdi is a square stepwell built during the Malwa Khilji rule. Very different from the other stepwells I hve been to, this one had not one but two tombs on either side - one belongs to Sheikh Raji’s wife while the other has no inscription. It is said that the Bawdi was meant only for the ladies of the royal household and not the common people.
Raja rani mahal
These two palaces stand side by side.... Raja Mahal is an imposing seven storey building while Rani Mahal is a two storey structure. Both the buildings are constructed in different styles therefore both would have been constructed in different periods, featuring architecture from around the 15th century. Unfortunately the palaces are in quite a sad state, and we saw quite a bit of repair work going on. It is said that Chanderi once had nearly 260 palaces, of which only 43 have managed to survive. With elegant stairways, a huge courtyard and ornate carvings on the walls, these must have been quite a sight back in the day..
And with that we headed towards the last stop of our trip, meet weavers and maybe do a bit of shopping. The guy who had helped us in the bus was out guide, we met him, he took us to his home and to another weavers' home. They were so hospitable, offering us chai and showing us so many of their creations. Must have spent about 2 hours before we finally made a small purchase and headed back to the hotel to wind down for the evening.
This was the view we got from the open balcony behind our room of the city below. It was truly magical and we were glad we had booked a room at this property!! Next morning we packed our bags and drudgingly made our way downhill to find a bus to take us to Lalitpur bus station and onwards to our next destination by train!!