Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Destination Modhera

The rich history of India can be discovered across different states of India and Gujarat is no different. I was told that the legacy of Solanki's rule has been left behind in nook and corners of Gujarat. Modhera is one such place and the Surya Mandir  is considered to be one of the most magnificent monuments of the state. The  temple offers a glimpse of the architectural marvel that is 10 years short of 1000 years. As one is transported back in time by the guide, an Architect can only be amazed at the ingenuity of Himatnagar sandstone artistry.

A comfortable drive through the rural landscape from Ahmedabad and one is enveloped in the past in an instant. The lush green carpet around the complex welcomes one towards the rectangular Ramakund. Now a storage tank of stagnant rain water was once upon a time a place for ceremonial ablutions . The 108 god and goddesses in their miniature shrines along the Kund showered their blessing to one who cleansed before entering the Sabha mantap Twelve pillars in the sabha mantap representing the different interpretation of sun god radiates the aura of positive light.From mantap one enters the Guda mantap or the Grabha griha. The mantap housed the idol of golden sun god who majestically reflected the rising and setting  counterpart on the day of equinox. As with vaastu shastra, the idol was placed on a underground platform of precious metal. The history has it that Mohmmad Ghazni and Allauddin Khilji looted the temple and damaged the magnificent edifice.

As with any place of historical importance, along with architecture , it is the stories associated with the monument that makes it more colorful. Modhera Sun Temple has its share of legends, epics and tales carved into its walls. Add to it scenes from daily life and "instructional"  figurines , throw in a good story teller and you have wonderful trip back to the past!


Date : August 2015
Place : Modhera, Gujarat

Tip: Always hire a guide
First: Surya Mandir
The Travel Connection: If not now, when?

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Destination Old Amdavad

The heart of a city lies in its old quarters. Amdavad is no different except that the old city is defined by what is left of the fort wall and a number of darwazas or gates that lets you into this vibrant chaotic world. A good way to get lost in the history is to take a guided Heritage walk. Ours was led by a local student of IIM who helped us find the city!

Though the walk was sprinkled with visit to mosque and tomb of Rani Sipri, Jumma Masjid, Sidi Saiyyed Mosque, Muni Suvrat Swamy Jain Temple, Bhadra Kali Temple the most fascinating discovery for me was the  existence of pols. The old world version of modern day gated communities except that the  entry into community houses was based on caste, profession , religion or family. The narrow serpentine streets flanked by tall aged buildings charmed me into its past. But why the dense urban space ?  Why the narrow streets? Why the walls within the walled city? Maybe the walk will answer these questions.

A typical pol has an entrance arch announcing the name and giving one a glimpse of the old merchant families inside. Akasheth Kuvani Pol  and  many others have developed organically depending on need and space in a manner prevalent to villages of North Gujarat. The first pol , the Mahurat pol came into existence sometime in late 1700's making the pols 200-300 years old. The pols of varied sizes ranging from 6 houses to 3000 houses seem to have the happiest people around. The heart was beating loudly and clearly with the biggest smile ever! Here is a peek into their world.

The entrance to intrigue!

 The Narrow streets with big hearts!

 The beautiful spirited Lady!

Warm hearts and happy smiles!

 No strangers here, Just one big family!

 A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do!

Feed the birds, tuppence a bag , that's what he cried!

Given a choice , going for rich deep brilliant colors is second nature for the Gujaratis. Their homes are no different. Dhal Ni pol has a few restored homes and a good place to explore. But entry posed a problem! Dhal ni pol has gone to the cows.The personnel from the cattle nuisance control department ( yes, it does exist) evidently have good relationship with the cows here and hence their free passport to gore anyone they please.  After two of my fellow walkers were the chosen one by the mighty Kankrej cows, we had a relatively easy walk.  As I started taking in the sights through the narrow streets,the first adjective that came into my mind was eclectic.  The traditional facade with a hint of colonialism and its distinct features like the  balconies, intricately carved wooden brackets, doorways, complex fenestration displayed an exuberant riot of color and life.

 Shade the green. Colonial and Traditional lime stucco facade

 Wooden brackets supporting the riot of colors

 Secure the pol ! We have the French police! The French Haveli

An Indo french collaboration has sparked a spout of restorations of Havelis or the more opulent homes of the affluent merchants in this area. We were allowed into the French Haveli which now operates as a Bed and breakfast. The geometrical distressed door beckons one into the chowk or the naturally lit  central courtyard. The Jhula or the swing takes the prominent space here. Rain water harvesting was given importance in these havelis and the storage tanks are generally below the chowk. Steep wooden staircase will lead you to the private quarters of this haveli.The mozaic flooring which has been lovingly restored in some areas is an architectural marvel. The mazes of openings and spaces keeps the mystery of history alive and you are left with a longing to return here.

The other prominent stop over was at Mangaldas Ni Haveli which was being used as a cafe and craft center. The haveli which is about 250 years old is a showcase for what can be done with Burma wood . It is located in Lakha Patel ni pol and originally belonged to  Sardar Bholabhai Sara Bhai. The detailed documentation of the restoration including the before and after images can be explored at the link below.

Other prominent features of the pols are the chabutra, uniquely designed to welcome birds and pigeons . More about it can be explored at the link below

The architecture aside , it was the vibrancy of the people , their incredible positive energy and colorful smiles that made the heart of city beat incredibly loud. Add to that the little tit bits and stories spiced with the local street food and you have one incredible walkathon!

 Mosque and Tomb of Rani Sipri


 Jama Masjid

 Bhadra Kali Temple

Sidi Saiyyed Mosque

Date : August 2015
Place : Ahmedabad, Gujarat

First : Pols of Amdavad
The Travel Connection: " My heritage has been my grounding, and it has brought me peace." Maureen O' Hara

Destination Kabini/ Nagarahole

The Majestic Elephant

Nagarahole National Park has been a location of many fond memories from my teenage years. I was returning to this wonderful park after almost 20 years and was really excited about exploring it again. Though the elusive leopard did not honor us with his/her presence, the safaris were worth the time spent. The lush green park from the monsoons just made it a wonderland! The talented naturalist from Kabini river lodge led us through the maze of dirt roads and guided us to the sights of diverse wildlife. The perspective flip on the boat safari was the icing on the cake, an experience not to be missed. Kabini and Nagarahole - An unforgettable wildlife odyssey


A day on Kabini

Vigilant Stripe necked Mongoose

Spotted Deer in Green Wonderland
Indian Bison Gaur

Indian Peafowl

Cattle Egret

Indian roller


Painted Stork

Crested serpent eagle


 Rhesus Macaques

Spoon bills

Date : June 2015
Place : Kabini, Karnataka

Tip : JLR has some of the best naturalists.
First : Boat Safari
The Travel Connection:  “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”  ~Albert Einstein

Yet Again ! Nagarahole 2017

Flying Malabar Squirrel Kabini as a winter wonderland was a stark contrast from the lush green paradise I had experienced earli...