A Travellerspoint blog

February 2007

River Ganga - A dip for Moksha

all seasons in one day 19 °C

The Village priest leading his horde of devotees chants sab teerth baar baar, ganga sagar ek bar. You can go to all the holy places, but a pilgrimage to ganga sagar equals them all. A dip means redemption for all wrong done. The place is Sagar Island, on the confluence of the Ganga with the Bay of Bengal. The day "Makar Sankranti" or the last day of the month of paus.

Legend has it that, before joining the sea, the Ganga watered the mortal remains of King Sagar's 60,000 sons liberating their souls once and forever. It was standing on the Sagar Island that the mythical Kapil Muni condoned the sins of the sons of King Sagar who had dared to stop the horse blessed at Lord Indra's Aswamedha Yagna and tied it to a post near his temple. It is this legend that attracts people to this little island in a remote southern corner of West Bengal.

The Ganga Sagar mela (fair) (14 - 16 Jan) s the largest annual assemblage of devotees in India. The greatness of the mela can be assessed from the fact that over a million pilgrims come from far-flung corners of India and beyond, speaking different languages and belonging to diverse castes and creeds, for a sacred dip at this holy confluence. For this, no invitation is given. No Propaganda is carried out and overall no authority exists for carrying out the mela.

It is indeed a tough journey. A few days in packed buses and trains bring the pilgrims to Calcutta. From there, again a long bus journey to ferry ghats or jetty in Sunderbans area, followed by crossing the tidal river stretching for miles across. The last leg involves either walking or traveling by a local bus up to 30 kilometers depending on the location of embarkation point.

The journey can be tiring but religious fervor of the pilgrims overcomes all hardships. Kapil Muni Ki Jai, Dapil Muni Ki Jai, (Hall Kapil Muni), the din rises above the grinding motors of the launches ferrying the pilgrims across the Ganga and the countless buses plying between Calcutta and Namkhana. The problem of traveling doesn't deter even the weak and vulnerable. Old people in their eighties, and village women carrying babies and little children in tow are a common sight.

The never ending stream of pilgrims keeps pouring in throughout the day and night before the auspicious day and occupies any available space on the sandy beach. They move about the place in groups, many displaying saffron and red flags, identifying the religious akhara (group) they belong to as well as acting as beacon to the members who stray out of the group.

People walk to the sound of the bells, blowing conch shells and chanting prayers. Strains of devotional songs can be heard from far and near. And, the ceaseless din of loudspeakers. An array of shops, stacked with heaps of vermilion, rudraksha, colorful beads, conch shells line the pathways. Many a visitor stands wide-eyed before the shops selling everything from foodstuff, household utensils to remote controlled toys.

People crowd around the naga sadhus (naked ascetics) without whom the Ganga Sagar mela is incomplete. Sitting naked near the temple and enjoying a chillum of ganja, (cannabis) they are also the targets of tourists' camera. While devotees jostle in front of numerous temporary shrines of Hindu deities to pay homage, Kapil Muni's temple remains the chief attraction. The temple of Kapil Muni, as we see it today, is by no means the spot where the saga meditated. It went under the sea a millennium ago followed by the many others built in its place, which subsequently were also swallowed by the advancing sea

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Colourful Traditions-Tansen Music Festival-Central India

semi-overcast 18 °C

Madhya Pradesh occupies a special position in the history of Indian music. The Gwalior gharana is among the most prominent arbiters of the classical style. Raja Mansingh's patronage of Dhrupad singers is well known.

A pillar of Hindustani classical music, the great Tansen, one of the 'nine jewels' of Akbar's court, lies buried in Gwalior. The memorial to this great musician has a pristine simplicity, and is built in the early Mughal architectural style. More than a monument, the Tansen Tomb is a part of Gwalior's living cultural heritage. It is the venue of the annual Indian classical festival held here in November-December. Renowned classical singers of the land regale audiences through five mesmerizing night-long sessions of the much-loved classical ragas.

The festival is held, near the tomb of Tansen at Behat, Gwalior in the month of November/ December every year. The tomb build in the early Mughal architectural style is a part of Gwalior's cultural heritage. Renowned classical singers from the country gather and perform for five night-long sessions. The venue resounds with the various ragas.

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Colourful Traditions-Khajuraho Dance Festivals-Central India

all seasons in one day 20 °C

While the traditional religious festivals of the Hindus, Muslims and other communities are celebrated in Madhya Pradesh as enthusiastically as in the rest of India, it is the tribal fairs and festivals of Madhya Pradesh, which are a celebration of the ethnic life-styles of the colourful tribes of the land. The tribal festivals in Jhabua are marked by carefree revelry, drinking bouts and exotic entertainment like cock-fighting, uninhibited dancing, etc. The casual visitor often fails to appreciate adequately the genuine and strong tradition of democracy in tribal society, the harmonious living with nature, the respected status accorded to women, the amicable sharing of the community resources.

Lokranjan, Khajuraho (Held in December)
Folk and tribal dances of ancient India. This is an effort to conduct various forms of dances at one platform. Lokranjan festival is organised in Khajuraho by the Adivasi Lok Kala Academy during 8-12 in Dec. for the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation. It is a symbol of cultural awareness.

Khajuraho, an ancient town of Chandel dynasty is famous for its architecture and sculpture all over the world.

Among the cultural festivals of Madhya Pradesh, the Khajuraho Festival of Dances and the Tansen Music Festival in Gwalior are poignant celebrations of Indian classical dance and music.

Khajuraho Dance Festival (25 February to 3 March - 2007)

25th Feb. 07
Kumkum Dhar, Lucknow Kathak

Kanka Shrinivas, Delhi Bharatnatyam Group
Suchitra Harmalkar, Indore Kathak

26th Feb. 07
Ranjana Gouhar, Delhi Odissi
Uma Rahul, Mumbai Bele (Santvani)
Lata Singh Munshi, Bhopal Bharatnatyam

27th Feb. 07
Uma Murli Krishna, Chennai Kuchipudi
International Chhau Dance Group,W.B. Chhau Purulia
Vijaya Sharma, Bhopal Kathak

28th Feb. 07
Neela Prasad, Thiruanantpuram Mohiniattam
Nalini-Kamlini, Delhi Kathak Duet
Bindu Juneja, Bhopal Odissi

1st March, 07
Munna Shukla, Delhi Kathak Group
Priya Jayraman, Chennai Bharatnatyam
V.Anuradha Singh, Bhopal Kathak

2nd March, 07
Geeta Mahalik, Delhi Odissi
J.L.Nehru Manipuri Dance Academy, Manipur
Shweta Mishra, Lucknow Kathak

3rd March, 07
Kumkum Mohanti, Bhuvneshawar Odissi
Kala Mandlam Gopi, Kerala Kathkali
Sankalp Group, Delhi Odissi

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River Narmada & Kipling country

sunny 20 °C

Moments of valour and glory
etched in stone.
Love, passion, feasting, divinity....
Arrested in the sensitive chisels
of master craftsmen.
Meandering rivers, lush forests,
hills and ravines.
The roar of the tiger.
It's the magic of a many
splendoured land.

Orchha - Medieval legacy in stone
Orchha's grandeur has been captured in stone, frozen in time, a rich legacy to the ages. In this medieval city, the hand of time has rested lightly and the palaces and temples built by its Bundela rulers in the 16th and 17th centuries retain much of their pristine perfection.

Bhimbetka - Through the Ages
Surrounded by the northern fringe of the Vindhyan ranges, Bhimbetka lies 46 km South of Bhopal. In this rocky terrain of dense forest and craggy cliffs, over 600 rock shelters belonging to the Neolithic age were recently discovered. Here, in vivid panoramic detail, paintings in over 500 caves depict the life of the pre-historic cave-dwellers making the Bhimbetka group an archaeological treasure, an invaluable chronicle in the history of man.

Sanchi - Masterpieces of Buddhist Art.
Sanchi is known for its Stupas, monasteries, temples and pillars dating from the 3rd century B.C. to the 12th century A.D. The most famous of these monuments, the Sanchi Stupa 1, was originally built by the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, the then governor of Ujjayini, whose wife Devi was the daughter of a merchant from adjacent Vidisha. Their son Mahindra and daughter Sanghamitra were born in Ujjayini and sent to Sri Lanka, where they converted the King, the Queen and their people to Buddhism.

Khajuraho - Eternal Expressions of Love
In the temple architecture of India, the Khajuraho complex remains unique. One thousand years ago, under the generous and artistic patronage of the Chandela Rajput kings of Central India, 85 temples, magnificent in form and richly carved, came up on one site, near the village of Khajuraho. The amazingly short span of 100 years, from 950 AD - 1050 AD, saw the completion of all the temples, in an inspired burst of creativity. Today, of the original 85, only 22 have survived the ravages of time; these remain as a collective paean to life, to joy and to creativity; to the ultimate fusion of man with his creator.

Omkareshwar - Sanctified by faith.
the sacred island, shaped like the holiest of all Hindu symbols, 'Om', has drawn to it hundreds of generations of pilgrims. Here, at the confluence of the rivers Narmada and Kaveri, the devout gather to kneel before the Jyotirlinga (one of the twelve throughout India) at the temple of Shri Omkar Mandhata. And here, as in so many of Madhya Pradesh's sacred shrines, the works of Nature complement those of man to provide a setting awe-inspiring in its magnificence.

Mandu - City of Joy.
Perched along the Vindhya ranges at an altitude of 2,000 feet, Mandu, with its natural defenses, was originally the fort capital of the Parmar rulers of Malwa. Towards the end of the 13th century, it came under the sway of the Sultans of Malwa, the first of whom named it Shadiabad - 'city of joy'. And indeed the pervading spirit of Mandu was of gaiety; and its rulers built exquisite palaces like the Jahaz and Hindola Mahals, ornamental canals, baths and pavilions, as graceful and refined as those times of peace and plenty. Each of Mandu's structures is an architectural gem; some are outstanding like the massive Jami Masjid and Hoshang Shah's tomb, which provided inspiration to the master builders of the Taj Mahal centuries later.

Maheshwar - The Glorious past on the banks of Narmada.
Maheshwar was a glorious city at the dawn of Indian civilization when it was Mahishmati, capital of king Kartivarjun. This temple town on the banks of the river Narmada finds mention in the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. Revived to its ancient position of importance by the Holkar queen Rani Ahilyabai of Indore. Maheshwar's temples and mighty fort-complex stand in quiet beauty, mirrored in the river below.

Khana - Kipling Country
Rich in forests and scenic areas, Madhya Pradesh is a nature and wildlife lovers' paradise. You visit the best of these unspoilt treasures of nature. Pachmarhi, a scenic hill resort in the Satpuras, remains colonial in appearance, surrounded by forests, quiet glades and enchanting views. Kanha, over 940 sq km in area and one of the finest National Parks in Asia, has wildlife in abundance. You also visit the Marble Rocks at Bhedaghat where the Narmada flows through the towering and glistenning rocks of Marble.

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