Tag Archives: Khajuraho

The original Bahubali and the Ghoda goes green!


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Spring is early this year, not just because Basant Panchami was celebrated in January itself, but also because winter too seems to be giving way to the spring already. Time of romance and enjoyment. Carnival time at places around the world. But the shortest month of the year is also one of the richest in terms of cultural output that we get out of it.

Khajuraho Festival of Dances

Well, we are already done with the first quarter of the month and many events have already rounded up, like the Rural Olympics at Kila Raipur in Punjab (2-4 February 2018) and the Sula Fest at Nasik (3-4 February). Even the Kala Ghoda Arts festival at Mumbai has started from 3rd February, but there is still time to catch up few events in remaining days. But surely gem of the month is the once in 12 years Mahamasthakabhisheka of the ‘original’ Bahubali at Shravanbelagola in Karnataka. But we also have some lesser known festivals in monasteries of Ladakh, if you are daring to venture there in the winters. Also in my (remaining) list for the month is another recent addition to Rajasthan’s ever growing music sphere- a festival at Udaipur. Then there are always the regular ones with their evergreen charm.

Mahamasthakabhisheka of Bahubali

Mahamasthakabhisheka, the head anointing ceremony is performed once in 12 years to the 57 feet tall monolithic statue of Lord Bahubali at Shravanabelagola. The event is being be held under the leadership of Swasti Sri Charukeerthi Bhattarakha Swamiji of Shravanabelagola from 17th-25th February 2018. Shravanabelagola/Sravanabelagola is one of the most important Jain tirth (a sacred place) of the Jains in South India. It is a place of great importance from the point of pilgrimage and also archeological and religious heritage. About eight hundred odd inscriptions which the Karnataka Archeological Department has collected at the place are mostly Jaina and cover a very extended period from 600 to 1830 A.D. Some refer even to the remote time of Chandragupta Maurya and also relate the story of the first settlement of Jains at Shravanabelagola. That this village was an acknowledged seat of learning is proved from the fact that a priest from here named Akalanka was in 788 A.D. summoned to the court of Himasitala at Kanchi where having confuted the Buddhists in public disputation, he was instrumental in gaining their expulsion from the South of India to Ceylon. The place derives its name from the point that Shravana or Shramana means a Jain ascetic and Belagola or Biliya Kola means white pond. Usually Mahamasthakabhisheka to Bahubali idols at Shravanabelagola, Karkala, Venur and Dharmasthala are conducted once in 12 years. There are various interesting stories/interpretations around this.

When: 17-25 February 2018

Where: Shravanabelagola is at a distance of 51 KM south-east of Hassan, the district centre. It is situated at a distance of 12 Km to the south from the Bangalore-Mangalore road (NH-48), 78 Kms from Halebidu, 89 Kms from Belur, 83 Kms from Mysore, 233 Kms from Mangalore and 157 Kms from Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka. It is well connected with State Highways and District roads. Bangalore and Mangalore are the two nearest destinations connected by Air. There are trains connecting Shravanabelagola with the state capital Bengaluru (Bangalore), its district head quarter Hassan, the cultural capital of Karnataka Mysuru and the state’s chief port city Mangaluru (Mangalore).

Kala Ghoda goes Green this year

Hindustan Times Kala Ghoda Arts Festival is the country’s largest multicultural festival, taking place in February each year. Kala Ghoda Association, was formed on 30th October 1998 with the object of maintaining and preserving the heritage and art district of South Mumbai. Mission was to preserve and refurbish the heritage arts district of Mumbai with the co-operation of local authorities and to create and spread multi-cultural awareness through platforms like festivals and events especially amongst those who have little opportunity to access or be exposed to culture. Hence the festival is free for everybody across all he sections. The Festival draws visitors in large numbers, not just from the city but from all over the country, and the world. Hara Ghoda The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival brings to the stage the wonders of nature shown through performance and art. The raging flames of the Fire of victory (agni), the liquid blue of Aqua (jal), the indefinable Air (vayu), the indestructible Earth (prithvi) and the realms of Space (akash), finds its place and artistic representation at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2018. The HTKGAF calendar features dance, theatre, music and literature events, in addition to art installations, workshops, heritage walks and film screenings. For those looking forward to the diverse calendar of events, this festival hasn’t been soon enough. The festival is quirky and fresh, bringing to us the best of art and culture. The art installations are amazing; the literature events enriching. The nine-day festival adds to the beauty of the city, with its rich programmes. Kala Ghoda is a festival so rich and diverse, yet binding us together. Music performances are exemplary, with elite artists performing for the whole city. It captures the city’s culture and gives the new generation a chance to connect with it.

When: 3-11 February, 2018

Where: Different venues for different arts across Mumbai, although there is a pending court case related to use of Cross Maidan this year.

Destruction of evil with fanfare at Dosmochey Festival in Ladakh!

This is a festival from the rooftop of the world. Likir Festival and Leh Dosmochey normally falls around February. Dosmochey is a monastic festival celebrated in the month of February each year. This festival was said to be started by the rulers of Ladakh on the pattern of the popular Mon-Lam meaning ‘Great Prayer’ ceremony of Lhasa. It is celebrated at Leh, Likir (lower Ladakh) and Diskit (in Nubra valley) monasteries. It is the last event of the New Year celebrations, and is held on the 28th and 29th day of the 12th Tibetan month. This two day festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm. Hundreds of Ladakhi people and winter tourists actively take part in this festival. In Leh, there is a courtyard below Leh Palace, where festival is held. Monks from various monasteries perform mask dance and ritual prayers. Mask dance is accompanied with the sound of large drums, cymbals and trumpet. Monks of Takthok monastery (the only remaining Nyingmapa school monastery and who are considered as masters in Tantric practice and astrology) prepare the complex thread crosses to trap evil and demonic forces. On the second day, crowds of masked dancers and people march through streets spreading positive energy. Besides, offerings of storma, ritual figures moulded out of dough, are brought out and ceremonially cast away into the desert, or burnt. These scapegoats believed to carry away with them the evil spirits of the year just passed and thus the town is cleaned and made ready to welcome the New Year.

When: 13-14 February, 2018

Where: Leh Palace, Likir and Diskit Gompa

Cham dances of Yargon Tungshak 

Stay for some more days after Dosmochey festival and you can enjoy another one in Nubra valley this time. Even though winter is not the most ideal time to plan a Leh Ladakh tour, those who want to witness the livelier side of Ladakh must plan a visit to Nubra Valley during the late months of winter. During the late winters, the calm and placid Nubra valley of Ladakh comes to life with the vibrant Yargon Tungshak Festival. A flamboyant exhibition of culture, tradition, folk music, and the much acclaimed Cham Dance (Mask Dance), the Yargon Tungshak Festival brings in a new and the livelier vibes back to the entire valley. Decked up in traditional costumes, the dance is performed on the beats of drums and low-level syllables which are uttered with a strange melody. Dances which are performed in this festival are Lion, Yak and Tashipa dances. Ladakhi festiveals like Yargon Tungshak are synodnymous with delicious food that is peculiar only to that region. Locals, during the Yargon Tungshak Festival, feast on delicious local foods; mostly skyu, gurgur cha and thukpa, and the monasteries also holds social feast for the locals. Also, a grand religious prayer takes place in a monastery. Along with the traditional Tibetian chants, Sanskrit chants are also uttered by monks.

When: 19-20 February, 2018

Where: Nubra Yama, Nubra, Ladakh

The oracles at Stok Guru Tsechu

Dare I say that come back from Nubra to the Stok village and in few days you will witness another great monastic festival and a rare one. The Stok Guru Tsechu Festival is held in the first month of the Tibetan lunar calendar, the holy prayer month. It is celebrated in accordance with Guru Rinpoche’s (Padmasambhava) birthday which falls on the 9th and 10th day of the first Tibetan month. Stok Guru Tsechu is a very unique monastic festival. Apart from the famous mask dance, its highlight is the awaited oracles’ prediction for the coming year. Stok village, where the festival takes place, offers the great view down the valley on the mighty Indus river and the majestic snow-capped Stok Kangri Mountain (6,153m above sea level). Every now and then one gets easily delighted by the festive vibes that the locals emanate in their colourful attire. The festival is a platform where villagers take the opportunity to serve their spiritual masters and the monastery in its turn entertains its long-bearing benefactors through a colourful Cham or mask dance. The villagers are introduced to different manifestations of Tantric Buddhas through the means of religious dance performed by the monks who are in turn disguised in sacred costumes, ornaments and huge masks resembling different Buddhas. As the sun sets down above the high rocky mountains of Stok range, the two oracles appear in the monastery courtyard. Fully possessed and in trance, they are escorted to the main temple by monks, lay people and two Deer mask dance performers. They are being glorified with the high baritone trumpets blown by the monks along with cymbals, drums and a group of lay musicians playing traditional drums and pipes. It is believed that there are seven oracles residing in Ladakh. Two of them are in Stok village, two in Matho village, other two in Gya village and one in Skurbuchan village. The story tells that their origin dates back to the pre-Buddhist era where Shamanism or Bon was prevailing in Tibet. As Guru Rinpoche subdued all the shamanic energy and converted them into Buddhism in the 8th century AD, they took pledge to protect the Buddha Dharma since then.

When: 24-25 February, 2018

Where: Stok village, Ladakh

World of music at the City of Lakes

The City of Lakes sings a different tune come February. Udaipur plays host to the third edition of the Udaipur World Music Festival. Organised by SEHER, this festival brings together global artists and ensembles from over 20 countries. More than 100 artists will collaborate to give an eclectic variety of performances. The festival which witnessed a footfall of more than 50,000 people visiting from different parts of the world during its last two editions, assures an interesting itinerary with artistes from France, US, Nepal, Spain, Italy, Thailand and India giving music lovers a taste of jazz, classical, rock and pop music this edition. Music enthusiasts will be privy to live performances by famous bands like Txarango from Spain and Brazilian singer Flavia Coelho and many other artistes who will be performing for the first time in the country. Music connoisseurs will also get to enjoy soulful renditions by the lauded musical trio Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy from India and The Ransom Collective from Philippines. Celebrating cultural diversity at its best, the festival will also provide a platform to local Rajasthani artistes along with an insightful exposure to the local communities.The event is designed to cater to the music sensibilities of people across different ages and from all walks of life. An absolute once-in-a-lifetime experience, this one is a sheer treat for lovers of good music. The event will host some of the most renowned music artistes including Italian musician Oi Dipnoi, Himalyan folk singer-songwriter Bipul Chettri, New York-based Indian guitarist and composer Shubh Saran, French musical artist Maya Kamaty, amongst others. “It has been a fantastic experience to see tremendous response from music lovers in the past two editions. This year we have planned to take the festival to new levels with an eclectic line up of world musicians who will be performing during the festival. The festival is a celebration of myriad cultures, ethnicities and colorful traditions through music,” Festival Director Sanjeev Bhargava said.

When: 9-11 February 2018

Where: Fateh Sagar Paal and Gandhi ground, Udaipur

Showcasing art and handicraft at Surajkund

Surajkund Mela

One of the most awaited fairs of north India happens to be very close to Delhi. Comes right at the nick of spring. Dates have been slightly altered this year. A marvellous mix of handicrafts, folk arts and folk dances makes it a crowd puller. With lots of food stalls representing different states, it has lot more to offer. Hosted by Haryana Tourism, this fair also has a large entertainment value. With Valentine Day coming towards the end of the festival, young ones from NCR find it tempting to have some funtime at Surajkund. This year visitors at the upcoming Surajkund Mela will be able to take a joy ride in a helicopter and enjoy an aerial view of the fair and surrounding areas. Every year, a country is chosen to be the Partner Nation that showcases the best of its art, culture, traditions and heritage during the Mela fortnight. Artists from many other states also actively participate. Every year, a theme state is chosen for the Mela, which highlights the state in totality from its architecture to fine arts and crafts. This year Kyrgyzstan is the partner nation and Uttar Pradesh has been chosen as the theme State for the 32nd Surajkund International Crafts Mela-2018.

When: 2-18 February, 2018

Where: Surajkund, Faridabad, Haryana

A music fest for world peace

Sufi Sutra which is now Sur Jahan

8th edition of Sur Jahan (previous name Sufi Sutra) will be held at Mohar Kunj, Kolkata on February 2 to 4, 2017. Like previous years, it remains non ticketed festival and open to music lovers. Held in the first weekend of February every year with the motto of ‘Music for Peace, Music for All’, the event showcases international and national music teams, with cultural exchange workshops during the day and concerts in the evenings. The celebrations create the atmosphere of a carnival, with stalls by rural handicraft artists and folk performances. It is being held since 2011 and is now a permanent and much-awaited fixture in the city’s cultural calendar. Since its inception, teams from 22 countries and 12 states of India have participated in this annual musical extravaganza. Among the major attractions this year are the Ale Möller Quartet and Ellika Solo Rafael, both from Sweden, BraAgas of Czech republic, Virelai of Denmark and Otava Yo from Russia. Indian part will be represented by Punjab Qawwali, Bauls of Bengal and Folks of Bengal – an initiative of banglanatak dot com MusiCal supporting urban folk artists. The festival will also showcase Rural Craft & Cultural Hubs of West Bengal, an initiative of West Bengal government’s Department of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises and Textiles (MSME&T) in association with UNESCO. Alike last year Sur Jahan is again traveling to Goa this year Feb 7-9.

When: 2-4 February, 2018.

Where: Kolkata & Goa

Carnival times in Goa

India’s answer to carnivals of Brazil, Caribbean and Europe. Carnival came to Goa with the Portuguese in 1510. This is the local version of the carnival celebrated worldwide before Mardi Gas. In the localised version parade is lead by local King Momo. This three day event is the place where all the colours of Goa come out in a glorious swagger and sweeps away the local as well foreign folks with its charm and charisma. Goa is almost synonymous with fun, music, food, entertainment and merry making and without any real doubt the only place in India that breaks away from the general image of the country as a conservative nation. It can be attributed to the historical fact that Goa was under Portuguese rule in the past and is still in its hang over. The Goa Carnival was started by the Portuguese rulers and since then it it has become an integral part of Goa. During the Carnival days Goa enters into a different zone of its own and become very crowded place. from every part of the world travellers come to enjoy the Goa Carnival. There is celebrations everywhere. Food and drinks are in plenty in accordance with live performances and multi-coloured processions. The scene of Goa Carnival resembles some fairy tale descriptions where people hop around in jovial mood with masks on, fireworks, fortune tellers, group of dancers and and above all happy people all around. Music swings into Goa Carnival quite naturally. The myriad facets of the Goan music compels any onlooker to jig with it. The stylish Spanish guitar, the casual drum beats and the soulful voice are enough to make you move your feet. It is a perfect gateway for everyone who is on the verge of a virtual breakdown in today’s dull, dreary and mundane world.

When: 10-13 February, 2018

Where: Panaji, Vasco, Mapusa

Best of classical dance at Khajuraho

Every ancient monument has a fascinating story to tell. But few match the mystery wrapped around the temples of Khajuraho in central India. Once the capital of the great Chandela Kings, Khajuraho today is a quiet village of a few thousand people. It is also the setting of the Khajuraho Festival of Dances which draws the best classical dancers in the country every year, who perform against the spectacular backdrop of the floodlit temples. The seven-day extravaganza is a unique treat for connoisseurs from all over the world. This year it will be 44th edition of this festival. The Khajuraho Festival of Dances draws the best classical dancers in the country who perform against the spectacular backdrop of the floodlit temples every year in February/March. The past and the present silhouetted against the glowing sun as the backdrop becomes an exquisite backdrop for the performers. In a setting where the earthly and the divine create perfect harmony – an event that celebrates the pure magic of the rich classical dance traditions of India. As dusk falls, the temples are lit up in a soft, dream-like ethereal stage. The finest exponents of different classical Indian styles are represented – Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Manipuri, and many more.

When: 20-26 February 2018

Where: Western group of temples, Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh

An Olympics for Theatre in Delhi this time

Bharat Rang Mahotsav

India’s biggest theatre festival hosted by National School of Drama will this year turn into 8th Theatre Olympics. India will be hosting this event for the first time. It will be a grand showcase of the international theatre. Theate Olympics is going to feature work by playrights, directors, actors, designers, theatre groups and drama institutions from India and abroad. It will showcase outstanding productions that have been performed for the public on or before 31st August 2017. The theme of the Olympics is Flag of Friendship. The Theatre Olympics was established in 1993 in Delphi, Greece, on the initiative of the famous Greek theatre director, Theodoros Terzopoulos. It is a platform for theatrical exchange, a gathering place for students and masters, where a dialogue despite ideological, culture and language differences is encouraged. Moreover, as its subtitle suggests, Crossing Millennia, it is an initiative that emphasizes the importance of connecting the past, present, and future together. The founding committee was a group of eight internationally renowned theatre directors: Theodoros Terzopoulos, Nuria Espert, Antunes Filho, Tony Harrison, Yuri Lyubimov, Heiner Müller, Tadashi Suzuki and Robert Wilson. It is a non-profit organization. Its administrative headquarters are located in Athens, Greece (European office) and in Togamura, Japan (Asian office).

When: 17 February-8 April 2018

Where: National School of Drama, New Delhi, but plays across the country at various locations including Agartala, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh, Chennai, Guwahati, Imphal, Jaipur, Jammu, Kolkata, Mumbai, Patna, Thiruvanathapuram and Varanasi.

Enjoying contemporary art at India Art Summit

India Art Fair

India Art Fair, previously known as India Art Summit, is an annual summit of modern and contemporary art. India Art Fair is South Asia’s leading platform for modern and contemporary art and portal to the region’s cultural landscape. Founded in 2008, India Art Fair has become the bedrock of a now booming cultural community with connections to every level of the market. This is the 10th year of this Art summit. Building on these foundations, India Art Fair is expanding its programming to reflect South Asia’s immense diversity in the visual arts and to provide a platform for innovation across disciplines and exchange, throughout the region and the world. There is strong representation of leading Indian and international galleries to complement the fair’s regional perspective and enable a deeper engagement with art. A curated showcase of interactive, large-scale installations revealing the most stimulating cross section of artists, mediums and processes from the subcontinent. With a shared ambition to promote cultural discourse in South Asia, and provide a platform for these discussions, India Art Fair has developed platforms such as the Speakers’ Forum and Film Programme. This broad and exciting programme of lectures, screenings and conversations will engage a diverse range of stakeholders in the visual arts as well as cover a wide spectrum of artistic practices.

When: 9-12 February, 2018

Where: NSIC Exhibition Grounds, Okhla Industrial Estate, New Delhi.


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A Octopussy fame to an architectural marvel!

I have been to this temple number of times since childhood, but never got to photograph it as extensively as I did recently. It is indeed one of the landmarks of the old city of Udaipur. Jagdish Temple rises high on the middle of a square, which is the main junction leading to Udaipur’s city palace. On this square road on two sides go downhill, while another two go uphill. So, it would have been a hillock on the banks of the lake, when this city would have been established centuries ago.

Well even this temple is a few centuries old, 365 years precisely. It is temple of Lord Krishna in Jagannath form. Built in 1652 by Rana Jagat Singh of Mewar, this temple rises 125 feet from the road through steep stairs. These stairs might be having almost a gradient of something between 50 to 60 degrees. It is said that Mughal emperor Aurangzeb’s army raided this temple and demolished the front part. During this attack 20 protectors of this temple laid there lives. Then Rana Sangram Singh II renovated the temple in 1723.

Temple as seen from the square

Temple has got a beautiful architecture. Although not very big, still lot has been said about this temple’s resemblance to some of sculptures from Khajuraho. Temple itself is 100 feet high and another 28 feet high flag post  on the top. Temple is based on 50 beautifully sculpted pillars. There is huge difference in time periods of Khajuraho and this temple—more than six hundred years. Hence there is as much difference in sculptures as well. There might be similarity in some of the poses, but there is stark dissimilarity in facial and body features. Even on the temple itself there is difference between facial features of different sculptures. But they are indeed beautiful and there is also some pattern to it. Some of them are sensuous but there is no profound eroticism as was found in the Suparshvanath temple at Ranakpur.

(Read: Obscured by an architectural wonder!) 

Main temple

The structure of this Jagdish temple is so imposing on that particular skyline that it is just not possible to miss it. Locals have been regular to this temple. Its sudden rise and elevation from the road is something that is more impressive for tourists. And actually this impression brings out an interesting story related to this temple and this is a recent one. This also provided a fresh lease of popularity to this temple among foreign tourists.

Outside walls of the temple
Sculptures on walls
Sculptures on outside walls

 

Sculptures on outside wall
See the perfect pattern on the walls
Closer look at the sculptures
Closer look at the sculptures

Well, I am talking about ‘James Bond’ Roger Moore’s Octopussy. This 1983 film was shot extensively in Udaipur and especially in the area around city palace, two palace hotels, Lake Pichola and this Jagdish Temple. I still remember those days, when only source of news used to be the morning newspapers and one fine day this news spread in the city like jungle fire that new James Bond film is being shot in Udaipur. But that was not all, the news that also disseminated was about stunts being shot in the film. Film unit was looking for some stuntman to do a couple of stunts in the film and it was like who dares wins! One of these stunts was related to Jagdish Temple.

Stairs going down the temple

Actually the Director John Glen was so impressed with stair elevation of the temple that he wanted somebody to ride a bike down these stairs to incorporate it in a chase scene. He would have thought that how perfect it could be for a James Bond film. He tried hard, but it was obviously so fatally dangerous that nobody came forward to do the scene despite a big (as per those times) offer. Glen had to drop his wish. But the film still has many scenes around this temple as you can see in these images. Although, the chase scene around the temple looks very comical by today’s standards, but then who cared, when it was a Roger Moore film. Film also had a big Indian cast including Kabir Bedi and one of India’s greatest tennis players- Vijay Amritraj. Yes, he has also acted in films!

See some stills from the film played around the temple stairs-

Jagdish Temple square as filmed in Octopussy.
A chase scene in the film on road coming from city palace to Jagdish temple
Activities at temple square in film and you can see the temple stairs in the background
A flying auto-rickshaw and temple shikha in background
Auto rickshaw taking flight right in front of temple stairs
Scene of temple stairs in the film
A camel-cart in the front of the temple
And, what all happens in a James Bond film.

You might not enjoy Octopussy all over again, but you will certainly enjoy visiting this temple, whenever you are in Udaipur next. Don’t miss!

More look at the temple and its sculptures

Temple of Garuda- Vishnu’s vehicle
A face of Shiva

Where: Jagdish Temple is right on the square in old city which has been named on the temple itself. Its is just  200 metres from Udaipur’s city palace and less than half kilometre from Lake Pichola. It would be hardly four kilometres from the Udaipur City railway station. There are many hotels around, including some old havelis which have now been converted into heritage stay options. Everything is so close that you can almost walk to the entire tourist worthy area around this temple.

See some more images from the temple. Click to have full view-

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Obscured by an architectural wonder!

How often will we visit a landmark destination and return satisfied, without even knowing whether there was anything else, that we missed in the aura of that wonder! There are many hidden architectural gems in India. How often would have we noticed the shark difference between number of visitors to Taj Mahal and then to Tomb of I’timad-Ud-Daulah in Agra!! Well, this is not about Agra, but about something down west in Rajasthan, close to Udaipur.

You would have heard about famous Jain Temples at Ranakpur.

(Read: Going to Udaipur! Don’t miss on these 10 things)

This temple I am talking about, is right adjacent to Ranakpur temples  and actually in the same complex. But as it happens, not even one percent of the tourists going to Ranakpur visit this quite smaller temple. Ranakpur has actually three temples in the complex- main is the one we all know- Chaturmukha Jain Temple of Adinath. Other two are- Sun temple and the Suparshvanatha temple (सुपार्श्वनाथ मंदिर). These two temples are obscured under the grandeur of the main Jain temple.

View of Chaturmukha Adinath temple from Suparshvanatha temple in Ranakpur

However small these temples might be, but they are architectural beauty themselves. The temple we are talking about it is Suparshvanatha Temple. Suparshvanatha was the 7th Jain Tirthankara and was said to be born to King Pratistha and Queen Prithvi of Varanasi. Now there is no inscription here to tell us that when was this temple exactly built, before the Adinath temple or after that. But what we are sure of is that this temple has very beautiful intrinsic architecture.

This temple is also famous for erotic sculptures on its walls. And for this, it reminds me of two other temples in Rajasthan- one close to Udaipur near the Elkingji temple-

(Read: Forgotten heritage and shades of Khajuraho near Udaipur)

And another one is in Sariska Tiger Reserve near Alwar-

(Read: Khajuraho of Aravalis: Neelkanth)

Some locals say that because of its erotic sculptures, this temple was also called as Paturiyon Ka Mandir (पटुरियों का मंदिर- temple of prostitutes) . Was there any other reason for this, is not known. But indeed this temple has some remarkable erotic sculptures. Not all of them, but few of them might be comparable to even sculptures of Khajuraho for their sheer beauty.

Many of the sculptures here are intact, but there are still many which have been either defaced or weathered out.  There also seems to be some difference between periods of different sculptures because of their figures. That might also be because some of them are pretty damaged or weathered out or look quite raw.  But you can’t miss the eroticism in them. Have a look yourself-

Many of these expressions could be easily find in Khajuraho. It also belies the myth that the Jain temples didn’t have such explicit sculptures. A lot remains unanswered due to unavailability of details about origin of this temple. It might sure be part of local folklores, but then it needs to be researched more.

Other than the sculptures pictures above, most of other sculptures are quite intrinsic, detailed and beautiful.

Many of the designs and sculptures are quite typical of Jain sculptures of those times (Ranakpur temple was built in 15th century using Maru-Gurjara architecture of West India).

This architectural style is considered to be different from North Indian temple architecture. Also lies the fact that Jainism has been very strong in these areas of Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Hence, next time you visit Ranakpur temple, don’t forget to visit this small temple which will certainly remind you of sculptures of Khajuraho.

Ranakpur temple

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Forgetten heritage and shades of Khajuraho near Udaipur

Well, since Udaipur is my hometown so I had always been knowing about this temple and have visited this quite a few number of times, since my school days. Similarly, almost all people from Udaipur know about it. But ironically, though Udaipur is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India for domestic as well as foreign tourists, still you will rarely find any tourist visiting this temple. Baring the school days, when we would come here for picnics or drop here while visiting the famous Eklingji temple; in recent times whenever I visited this temple, I or our group were the only persons around. So strange.

Well, this part of north-west India is full of shrines and temples but this image shows that it is no ordinary temple. It is actually a temple complex with a few temples around- a couple of them are still intact while there are others which have turned into ruins. The temple is called as Saas-Bahu (सास-बहू) temple. Bahu means young married woman and Saas means mother-in-law. And there is no historical reference behind this name. Actually, very little is known about the origin and construction of this temple. This is very intriguing given the elaborate architecture of this temple.

A look at the temple complex-

Interestingly, this region has a mix of temples- Jain, Shaivite as well as Vaishnava, very close to each other. Many of them have been top religious institutions of their times. This temple is indeed under supervision of ASI and what is known to us is that this temple belongs to eleventh century. This also means that the temple predates many of other prominent temples of this region by a few centuries. Tragedy for curious travellers like me is that, the inscription stone here clarifies nothing, worse  still, the language (there are two inscriptions- one in Hindi and in English) of the matter written here, presumably by the ASI, is hopeless. There are no sentences, no expressions and henceforth no meanings. The one who wrote this probably knew neither English, nor Hindi. This can happen only in India.

The complex has twin vaishnava temples. One is bigger and another smaller. The bigger one is surrounded by ten subsidiary shrines. Smaller temple is Panchayatna style, i.e. the main temple has four subsidiary smaller temples. Both temples have pancha-ratha sanctum. Inside the doorway is a mandapa, porch and lateral transepts. Porch also encloses balustrade.

The temple have quite detailed relief panels around the outer wall as well as inside the sanctum. Surprisingly, many of the relief panels are still quite intact. It’s these panels which bring to our mind the erring similarity between the sculptures of this temple and all famous temples of Khajuraho.  Have a look-

Such elaborate sculptures and minute but profuse ornamental carvings are also there inside the sanctums of the existing temples in complex. You can see the makara-torana inside the sanctums or mandapa, which is said to be typical feature of medieval temples of western India. You will find similar torans in many Jain temples, including famous Jain temples of Dilwara near Mount Abu. Even the pillars are lavishly carved with sculptures. See-

Ceilings, porches and the doorways too have quite delicate carvings as with most temples in the region. Although in one temple, you can find the ceiling burnt black. It might be either due to an accident or an deliberate attempt to extract sculptures by heating them.  Nobody knows. Have a look-

Now what brings similarity to Khajuraho is the criticism in the sculptures. Let’s have a closer look at few of the panels to see the detailed carvings-

You will see that not just the postures, mood and expression but in some of the sculptures, even the human carvings are quite similar to those find in various temples of Khajuraho. You can also have a look at some of the bigger sculptures-

Very interesting, isn’t it!

There are many temples around and also in the complex. Some are intact, some are ruined with only platforms left and some you can even see submerged in the lake like this one-

This Saas-Bahu temple is located just on the banks of this lake and by looking at the temple submerged in the lake, it can be safely assumed that there would have been bigger structure below, which is now under water. It also means that the lake would have come up later and was not there when these temples were constructed. It also can mean that there would have been few other temples in the complex which would have now completely submerged under the waters of this lake.

Now look at this another picture from a wider angle-

There is a luxury resort on the hillock on the other side of the lake. Seems strange, that when we are struggling to preserve this amazing, almost thousand year old heritage, there is such an opulent display of luxury nearby, which wants to showcase itself as heritage.

What would have been the main entrance of the temple during its glory… onlooking the existing lake

Where: This temple is just around 10 kilometres from the Udaipur city and off roughly a kilometre from NH8 which connects Delhi to Mumbai via Jaipur-Udaipur-Ahmedabad. While going from Udaipur to Delhi via NH8, there is famous EKlingji (एकलिंगजी) shiva temple. Just before you go downhill towards the Eklingji town, a road turns left over a dam. This road takes you to temple on other side of the lake, on which dam is built. This means, if you are coming from Delhi-Jaipur-Nathdwara side, than this road will come to your right once you cross the Eklingji town and climb uphill. Obviously Udaipur is the nearest railhead as well as airport to reach here.

Surajkund Mela is on but much more to do this February

The month starts with Basant Panchami today and the day also marks the start of two premier yearly events in the NCR region- Surajkund International Crafts Mela 2017 started today at Surajkund in Faridabad on the Delhi-Haryana border. While in the heart of Delhi 19th Bharat Rang Mahotsav, India’s biggest theatre festival also started. These both are much sought for events by the art & culture enthusiasts.

Surajkund Mela
Surajkund Mela

Surajkund Mela comes right at the nick of spring. With dates fixed for every year (February 1-15) , it makes easier for travellers to plan. A marvellous mix of handicrafts, folk arts and folk dances makes it a crowd puller. With lots of food stalls representing different states, it has lot more to offer. Hosted by Haryana Tourism, this fair also has a large entertainment value. With Valentine Day coming towards the end of the festival, young ones from NCR find it tempting to have some funtime at Surajkund. Artists from many other states also actively participate. Craftsmen from Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and other states display their art. Every year, a theme state is chosen for the Mela, which highlights the state in totality from its architecture to fine arts and crafts. Jharkhand has been chosen as the theme State for the 31st Surajkund International Crafts Mela-2017. The state will showcase its tribal heritage and culture.

Bharat Rang Mahotsav
Bharat Rang Mahotsav

19th Bharat Rang Mahotsav that started today will be there till 21st February. India’s biggest theatre festival hosted by National School of Drama will focus on entertainment, education, enrichment and enlightenment. There will be 12 participating countries and 16 Indian states, 94 productions in 23 languages and performances by 125 groups. Bharat Rang Mahotsav was established a two decades ago by the National School of Drama to stimulate the growth and development of theatre across the country. Originally a national festival showcasing the work of the most creative theatre workers in India, it has evolved to international scope, hosting theatre companies from around the world, and is now the largest theatre festival of Asia. The 19th Mahotsav will include several national and international performances, and various associated events in a wrap-around program. This year Bharat Rang Mahotsav travels to 5 more centres- Kurukshetra, Agartala, Patna, Pune and Hyderabad.

We have already read in the previous post about events in Rajasthan in February. But even outside, there are many reasons to travel this month.

Khajuraho Festival of Dances
Khajuraho Festival of Dances

Spring can be best time to visit Khajuraho, not only to see the monuments but also to witness the one of India’s premier dance festivals. Every ancient monument has a fascinating story to tell. But few match the mystery wrapped around the temples of Khajuraho. Once the capital of the great Chandela Kings, Khajuraho today is a quiet village of a few thousand people. It is also the setting of the Khajuraho Festival of Dances which draws the best classical dancers in the country every year, who perform against the spectacular backdrop of the floodlit temples. The seven-day extravaganza is a unique treat for connoisseurs from all over the world. This year it will be 43rd edition of this festival (20-26 February). The past and the present silhouetted against the glowing sun as the backdrop becomes an exquisite backdrop for the performers. In a setting where the earthly and the divine create perfect harmony – an event that celebrates the pure magic of the rich classical dance traditions of India. As dusk falls, the temples are lit up in a soft, dream-like ethereal stage. The finest exponents of different classical Indian styles are represented – Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Manipuri, and many more. So while you can visit the monuments in day, be guest to dance festival in the evening.

India Art Fair
India Art Fair

India Art Fair, previously known as India Art Summit, is an annual summit of modern and contemporary art. India Art Fair is South Asia’s leading platform for modern and contemporary art and portal to the region’s cultural landscape. Founded in 2008, India Art Fair has become the bedrock of a now booming cultural community with connections to every level of the market. Building on these foundations, India Art Fair is expanding its programming to reflect South Asia’s immense diversity in the visual arts and to provide a platform for innovation across disciplines and exchange, throughout the region and the world. With a shared ambition to promote cultural discourse in South Asia, and provide a platform for these discussions, India Art Fair has developed platforms such as the Speakers’ Forum and Film Programme. This broad and exciting programme of lectures, screenings and conversations will engage a diverse range of stakeholders in the visual arts as well as cover a wide spectrum of artistic practices. This takes place from February 2-5 at NSIC grounds in Delhi’s Okhla Industrial Area.

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival
Kala Ghoda Arts Festival

More for art lovers, Mumbai’s favourite cultural festival, the nine-day Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, is all set to kick-off, this year in partnership with HT (February 4-12). The KGAF calendar features dance, theatre, music and literature events, in addition to art installations, workshops, heritage walks and film screenings. For those looking forward to the diverse calendar of events, this festival hasn’t been soon enough. The festival is quirky and fresh, bringing to us the best of art and culture. The art installations are amazing; the literature events enriching. The nine-day festival adds to the beauty of the city, with its rich programmes. Kala Ghoda is a festival so rich and diverse, yet binding us together. Music performances are exemplary, with elite artists performing for the whole city. It captures the city’s culture and gives the new generation a chance to connect with it. An exciting line-up will feature discussions with 80 authors and storytellers across genres, from model-turned-author Padma Lakshmi to filmmaker Dibakar Banerjee and authors Ashwin Sanghi and Amit Chaudhuri, on everything from mythology to photography, poetry, the environment and Bollywood.

Sufi Sutra which is now Sur Jahan
Sufi Sutra which is now Sur Jahan

For music fans 7th edition of Sur Jahan will be held at Mohar Kunj, Kolkata on February 3 to 5, 2017. Interestingly, like the World Sufi Spirit Festival of Rajasthan, this festival has also changed its name fro Sufi Sutra to Sur Jahan. Any clues??? Anyway,  like previous years, it remains non ticketed festival and open to music lovers. Held in the first weekend of February every year with the motto of ‘Music for Peace, Music for All’, the event showcases international and national music teams, with cultural exchange workshops during the day and concerts in the evenings. The celebrations create the atmosphere of a carnival, with stalls by rural handicraft artists and folk performances. It is being held since 2011 and is now a permanent and much-awaited fixture in the city’s cultural calendar. Since its inception, teams from 22 countries and 12 states of India have participated in this annual musical extravaganza. Among the major attractions this year are the Ale Möller Quartet and Ellika Solo Rafael, both from Sweden, BraAgas of Czech republic, Virelai of Denmark and Otava Yo from Russia. Indian part will be represented by Punjab Qawwali, Bauls of Bengal and Folks of Bengal – an initiative of banglanatak dot com MusiCal supporting urban folk artists. The festival will also showcase Rural Craft & Cultural Hubs of West Bengal, an initiative of West Bengal government’s Department of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises and Textiles (MSME&T) in association with UNESCO. Alike last year Sur Jahan is again traveling to Goa this year Feb 8-10.

Nasik Sula Fest
Nasik Sula Fest

But if you like music with some fun then Sula Fest is for you. Held every year in India’s wine capital- Nasik’s Sula vineyards, Sula Fest is the celebration of wine, music and food. The country’s most gorgeously situated, eagerly awaited Gourmet World Music Festival is back and this one promises to be even bigger and better! It also marks the fashion statement as is underlined as a sponsor like Vera Moda. This year is its 10th edition (February 3-5). This year there would be 120 artists performing on three different stages. From 12:30 PM onwards, SulaFest partygoers can expect a megamix of great music, wine, drinks, food, fashion and shopping in the idyllic environs of the winery’s beautiful open-air, Greek-Style amphitheater.

Fun in Goa Carnival
Fun in Goa Carnival

If you are more in the fun mood, than head to Goa for the carnival from February 25-28.  India’s answer to carnivals of Brazil, Caribbean and Europe. Carnival came to Goa with the Portuguese in 1510. This is the local version of the carnival celebrated worldwide before Mardi Gas. In the localised version parade is lead by local King Momo. This three day event is the place where all the colours of Goa come out in a glorious swagger and sweeps away the local as well foreign folks with its charm and charisma. Goa is almost synonymous with fun, music, food, entertainment and merry making and without any real doubt the only place in India that breaks away from the general image of the country as a conservative nation. It can be attributed to the historical fact that Goa was under Portuguese rule in the past and is still in its hang over. The Goa Carnival was started by the Portuguese rulers and since then it it has become an integral part of Goa. During the Carnival days Goa enters into a different zone of its own and become very crowded place. from every part of the world travellers come to enjoy the Goa Carnival. There is celebrations everywhere. Food and drinks are in plenty in accordance with live performances and multi-coloured processions. The scene of Goa Carnival resembles some fairy tale descriptions where people hop around in jovial mood with masks on, fireworks, fortune tellers, group of dancers and and above all happy people all around. Music swings into Goa Carnival quite naturally. The myriad facets of the Goan music compels any onlooker to jig with it. The stylish Spanish guitar, the casual drum beats and the soulful voice are enough to make you move your feet. It is a perfect gateway for everyone who is on the verge of a virtual breakdown in today’s dull, dreary and mundane world.

Kila Raipur Rural Olympics
Kila Raipur Rural Olympics

Looking for some serious fun in the games than head to Kila Raipur in Punjab for the Rural Olympics. It was in 1933. Philanthropist Inder Singh Grewal visualised an annual recreational meet where farmers from areas surrounding Kila Raipur could get together and test their corporal endurance. The idea gave birth to Kila Raipur Sports, the undisputed “Rural Olympics”. In over six decades the festival has grown from a toddler to a prancing, energetic youthful organisation. This pioneer rural sports festival has become an annual international event, which is normally held in the first weekend of February. A dynamic team of organisers – Grewal Sports Association – has taken yet again another pioneering step of giving rural women a break in sports. Today this festival of the rustics attracts more than 4,000 sportsmen and women, both of recognised and traditional sports. The three-day festival is witnessed by more than a million people. Besides, several million others watch it on television, read about it in newspapers and magazines. Whether you are in Punjab or in Toronto or in Southall, you will know the latest about Kila Raipur Sports. Its participants come from all over the globe. Since it takes several months for the immigrants in England, Canada or the USA to select, train and send their Kabbadi and Tug of War teams to this festival which of late has become a truly international, talks about destination KILA RAIPUR start much early. This year the three day olympics are from 17-19 February. Even though Punjab is in grip of election fever, people won’t let anything come between this fun.

Adoor Gajamela
Adoor Gajamela

But if you are of some religious type, than go to Kerala for Adoor Gajamela on 6 February. The picture of a huge tusker in all his adornment is something that catches the mind of all. If you are an elephant lover then don’t miss this wonderful elephant pageant at the Parthasarathy Temple in Adoor. The festival is part of the ten-day annual celebration held at the temple. Kerala’s first elephant pageant for the year, the end of the 10 day festival at Parthasarathy Temple features a procession of nine decorated elephants. Traditional art forms such a panchavadyam (a musical ensemble with five different types of instruments) accompany the parade. Hundreds of people throng the temple premises to witness this spectacle where nine tuskers come in their ceremonial attire to entice all. Parthasarathy Temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna, who is also known as Parthasarathy – the charioteer of Parthan, another name for Arjuna. Arjuna is one of the five Pandava princes, in the Indian epic Mahabharata.

Khajuraho of Aravalis : Neelkanth

Immediately after Bhangarh, I landed to this place. And, I am sure that less than 10 percent of people present at Bhangarh would have heard about this temple and among those who would have heard, less than 10 percent would have ever visited it. As a day later at Kankwari fort, here too, we were the only travellers. There were some locals to pray, although. Besides, we also came to know that there were many tourists a day earlier (on first day of the new year).

Neelkanth1
Neelkanth Temple

Well, this is all about Neelkanth Temple, how it is commonly known. The board here says its name as Neelkantheshwar Temple (not any difference in the meaning of both words). Actually, if you go on searching online, all the pages will lead you to Neelkanth temple near Rishikesh in Uttarakhand. You would have been lucky enough to land on this post.

The board outside temple
The board outside temple

I have been to the Neelkanth temple in Uttarakhand as well. Despite the number of tourists & pilgrims that the temple attracts and despite its location on a beautiful hill with glorious views, that doesn’t fall in the league of this Neelkanth temple that I am writing about- lonely, deep inside a jungle valley of Sariska National Park.

Side view of the temple from out
Side view of the temple from out

The title of the post says a lot about, what I mean to say. Comparing any temple to Khajuraho might be seemingly a big deal, but while doing that I also have in mind, besides what is there; what is lost as well. Khajuraho is known for its sculptures and Neelkanth has got lot in common with Khajuraho. There have been many temples around the country, built around the medieval times, to have erotic sculptures. Most of them get a Khajuraho adjective prefixed to their names. Is Neelkanth a similar phenomenon?

Not much is known about the history of this temple. There is nothing here which puts any light on the origin of the temple. Locals say it is there from the time of Mahabharata and Pandavas had established the temple. Actually, in this area especially the Sariska National Park, there are a few places which are attributed to Pandavas, Pandu Pole being the most famous one. Its said that more recently, King Ajaipal built the Neelkanth temple in 1010 A.D. By that account, this temple is almost contemporary to Khajuraho temples. Neelkanth is Shiva temple (most prominent of Khajuraho temples is the Kandariya Mahadev Temple, which is also a Shiva temple). But unlike Kandariya Mahadev Temple, this Neelkanth temple is a functioning temple, where pujas are performed regularly.

Sanctum sanctorum of the Neelkanth temple
Sanctum sanctorum of the Neelkanth temple

Actually, from what is known, this place is a treasure trove of archaeological findings and perhaps Neelkanth is a part of it. It is said that this valley used to have 360 temples at some point of time in history. Most of them were destroyed- either by attackers, pirates, looters or got weathered down. One can still see ruins of many temples scattered around in this area. So rich has been discoveries here that at the Neelkanth temple complex on both sides of the entrance the sculptures excavated from the area have been kept behind big locked iron grills. There is a round the clock presence of police for the security of these priceless sculptures. There is a police post, while the temple itself is under the supervision of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). You can still find a lot of sculptures in the open, on the temple walls, pillars, panels etc.

An erotic sculpture at Neelkanth temple
An erotic sculpture at Neelkanth temple

Sculptures at Neelkanth are in many ways similar to Khajuraho temples- in postures as well as human figures. Have a look at them-

Just opposite to the main temple are samadhis (memorials) of the the siddhas from the different generations who have been priests to this temple.

Samadhis of the priests
Samadhis of the priests

There are few other notable structures near to the Neelkanth temple. There is also a small pond-

A small pond
A small pond

Just besides this pond are ruins of another temple-

Few hundred metres away is another important temple complex with one main temple and a platforms of few smaller temples left. Locally this is called an Naugaja (नौगजा) as it is nine gaja (गज or yards) above the ground level. Here in the main temple there is big 16 feet high statue of a Jain Tirthankar (tough to name, might be Mahavir or Adinath or someone else). Considering the condition of the temple and the statue, it also can’t be surely said that whether this statue was always here or was it brought later on. The platforms of other smaller temples in the complex have many sculptures of dancers and musicians, which indicates that this temple had something to do with dance and music. Have a look-

There is lot more to explore in this area. Besides these sculptures and archaeological wonders, this valley is naturally very beautiful. Interacting with the villagers is fascinating. But what also attracts you here is the number of peacocks and peahens, and I actually mean that the number is unusually huge then whatever I have seen at any other place in India. You will simply love their presence-

Vital Details:

Now the turn of some important details. As I said that the Neelkanth temple, other temples and the village are inside Sariska National Park territory. But this is not the core area of the tiger reserve. Here is a village which has escaped relocation probably because of the Archaeological importance of the temple. Only way to reach Neelkanth Temple is through Tehla. Tehla also has a gate to Sariska Tiger Reserve, but the way to Neelkanth temple is different from that. Tehla is around 65 kms from Sariska gate of the tiger reserve. From Sariska (or Alwar side) one has to reach Gola turn (मोड़). From here one road goes to Bhangarh and then to Dausa. Another one goes to Rajgarh via Tehla. Tehla is roughly 15 kms from Gola mod. From Tehla a road goes to Neelkanth. Temple is around 10 kms from here.

Sunset at Neelkanth Temple
Sunset at Neelkanth Temple

From Tehla, a jungle road goes towards park area. You pass through Mansarovar Dam on the right. Roughly after seven kms you will hit a hill and then one has to climb (drive) on a very rough winding road upto the top. There is a fort gate on the top. The hills surrounding the park have a fortified wall on the top, which used to be part of Rajaur Garh (राजौरगढ़) .  From the gate through the fort wall, you move another kilometre downhill to Neelkanth village and through village to the temple.

There was no fees, entrance fees to be paid anywhere. Police at the temple prohibits you from taking photos inside the sanctum ( surely if they see a large DSLR hanging around your neck). But you can argue and convince. Ironically, nobody stops you from clicking image from your mobile, even if your mobile camera resolution is far better than any DSLR. But then, this is how it works in India.

Any questions or need a tip? Don’t hesitate in writing!

(Please share or like if you feel so but don’t copy & paste or use it anywhere else without permissions)

Pandav Falls : Bit myth, bit history and a lot of nature!

Pandav Falls1Pandavas can be credited, besides Mahabharata, also for being the earliest tourists.  Their 13 years in exile were actually years of travel around the country. Almost in every part of the country we will find a place dedicated to Pandavas- either they visited there, or stayed there or meditated there or did many other type of things. And, all these places were visited by them during their years in exile. Pandav Falls inside the periphery of the Panna Tiger Reserve and National Park is also one of the place associated with this mythological story.

Pandav Falls2Pandav Falls is not a destination into itself, as we can consider Raneh Falls to be. Pandav Falls is part of the bigger itinerary of Panna Tiger Reserve and Khajuraho temples. But it is descent place not to be missed. Pandav Falls is a multiple step waterfall around 30 metres in height. This is located on a tributary of the Ken river. Actually Ken river passes through Panna Tiger Reserve. A small stream breaks out from it, towards Pandav Falls and later again goes and joins the main river just before Raneh Falls. It looks very beautiful when it is in full flow, post monsoon. But that’s not the only reason to be here.

So, the place has a myth associated with it that Pandavas visited this pace during exile and stayed here. There are some limestone cave formations adjacent to the falls inside the rocks. These stalagmite and stalactite caves are called as Pandav caves as well. Interestingly, these caves are also five in number (which goes well for five Pandavas). But there is also a bit of recent history associated with this place. It is said that freedom fighter and revolutionary  leader Chandrashekhar Azad held a meeting of fellow revolutionaries at this place on 4 September 1929. In the memory of that event a bust of Azad was also placed here (at the top, near the parking slot) around six years ago.

Now about the nature. As I told, this is a natural waterfall.  We would have seen in the images that it is actually a deep gorge, which seems to have come out of nowhere in the midst of this valley. This surprises. It seems that such gorges are typical of topography of this area, as we have seen in Raneh Falls as well. So, the water falls in this gorge, which becomes a very beautiful pool of clean, serene water and then when the pool overflows, the water moves further ahead to the Ken river. Mythologically, it is said that second of the five Pandavas, Bheem made this hole by his mace to get water and quench the thirst. Some other tales give the credit to Arjun and his arrows.

Have a look at the caves and few sculptures found here which resemble sculptures of Khajuraho, which is not far from here.

This natural pool also works as natural nursery for the big rohu fishes. Fishes lay eggs here, once they are hatched, young ones on getting full grown move down to the main Ken river with the flow of water during the monsoon. As the place is considered as sacred, fishes are not caught here. See in the image below that how clear the water is and how big the fishes are here.

Pandav Falls9

Still, besides these all, there is one another thing that is associated with this place and what locals find miraculous. This is continuous presence of water in the pool. And actually this water doesn’t comes from the main water fall only. The water continuously drips here from either the rocks or the roots or shoots of the big trees on the top of the gorge. As locals say visibly there is no water up there on the land. Hence, this might be the underground water, which is finding its way to the gorge. This phenomenon takes place on the side of the gorge which is right opposite to the stairs going down to gorge.

Have a look through these images-

Abundance of good clean water,  has also turned this place into a very fertile ecosystem. Many birds- migratory as wells domestic, wild life minus the big cats are regular visitors here. As you can see the beautiful parakeets and the Arjun trees. See on the stem of the Arjun trees, these are the marks made by the sloth bear, who are very frequent visitors to this place.

Quick Facts: While going towards Panna from Khajuraho, the way to Pandav Falls is on the left side of the National Highway few kms ahead of the Mandla gate of the Panna Tiger Reserve. Mandla gate is on the right side. Although Pandav Falls area too comes under the Panna Tiger Reserve, but actually there are no big cats on the left side of the highway, almost all of them are towards right, where the core area is. There might be some occasional or accidental crossings but they return. Besides, all other wildlife can be seen in the forest area around the Pandav Falls. Distance from Khajuraho to Pandav Falls is 34 kms. Actual falls are less than one kilometre from the main gate right on the national highway.

Pandav Falls24Entry: Entry to Pandav Falls is not free. There is a fee per vehicle, exactly the same as Raneh Falls. This fee of Rs 495 per vehicle carrying 1 to 8 persons is collected at the forest entry gate. Similarly, there is also a guide fees of Rs 75. But, if yo have purchased a safari ticket for the vehicle to enter the Panna tiger reserve, than you can enter the Pandav Fall area too on the same ticket. There is absolutely no provision to stay in this area. But if you are less people and don’t want to pay vehicle fees, than you can walk down to Pandav Fall by paying individual entry fees of 55 Rs.

There is a parking area on the top and then there are 294 stairs and ramp to take you down to the pool. But these stairs are comfortable not too steep.

Raneh Falls : Rare and Breathtaking!

Raneh Falls1This might be one of the most underrated tourist destinations in India. But it is as much rare and fascinating. Raneh falls is just around 20-25 minutes drive from temple town of Khajuraho, which has been among the top destinations for foreign tourists in India. But still, not even ten percent of the tourists coming to Khajuraho go to Raneh falls. Often you might be the only tourist around. As was with us this time around, when we couldn’t find any other tourist in the Raneh falls area. Well, obviously, it doesn’t have that glamour. But that can’t undermine its beauty.

Raneh Falls2Raneh falls are natural. They are actually a canyon formation which you will not find anywhere else in India. It is said that these canyons would have formed because of volcanic eruptions thousands and thousands of years ago. As a result, in the path of Ken river (also called Karnavati river) there is a five kilometre long canyon formation. This river actually comes from Vindhyachal Hills, which are 125 kms from here and go further 200 kms from here till Banda in UP where it merges with river Yamuna. In whole journey of 325 kms, this canyon formation exists only in five kilometre length.

Raneh Falls3Even in this five kilometre length this canyon has variable depth and that actually creates the beauty of this  Raneh falls. At some places it is upto 50 metres. Interesting is the fact that you can’t see the beauty of this place during monsoon, when Ken river is in full flow. At that time all the crater gorges are full with watering river overflows in the canyon with no hint whatsoever of the outstanding geological structure beneath. The actual beauty of this place is in winters, when water has subsidised a bit and the canyon below is visible. River still has water and the flowing water from one gorge to another creates a fascinating array of waterfalls. There are numerous such gorges around and as a result there are numerous such big and small waterfalls. Locals say that you may not be even able to count the total number of waterfalls. They also call it a mini Niagara.

The larger and smaller falls run all through the year except for the peak of summer, when river flow starts drying up. This canyon is formed of igneous rocks rich in Granite and Dolomite. But actually there are five types of igneous rocks here and it is said that no where else in whole Asia, will you find these five rocks together at one place. See for different colours in photos. Green ones are dolomite, there is red coloured Jasper, brown quartz, pink granite and black basalt.

Have a look at the marvellous structure and the rock formation at Raneh Falls in this gallery:

Just a few kilometres upstream, Ken river passes through Panna National Park and Tiger Reserve and flows down to Raneh falls area. Actually the Raneh waterfall area is itself in the extended area of the jungle which is a protected forest. Locals say that even in this area around Raneh waterfalls, there used to be tigers until a few decades ago. All of them were probably hunted down. But other than big cats, you can find many wild animals in the forest area around Raneh falls. You can luckily see a few of them on the way to falls from the entry point and then from falls to the Ken Ghariyal & Crocodile sanctuary.

A glimpse of the area:

The Ken Gharial Sanctuary is located at the confluence of the Ken and Khudar rivers further down from Raneh Falls, almost seven kilometres through jungle, just ahead of the point, where canyons end. River here is again in its full flow. As with Raneh falls, here is also an observation deck atop the hill overlooking vastness of river. One can go down and do boating here in the river and don’t be afraid- crocs or gharial will not attack you. Boating here is very soothing and relaxing experience. Mind it, Ken is said to be the cleanest of Indian rivers. Surprised! Yo won’t, once you see the water here.

A look at the Ken river area:

When: Anytime except monsoon and peak of summer. Winters are the best time to be here. Even for sighting of crocodiles and Gharials, winters is good as we can find them taking sun bathe on the rocks in and around river. In summers, they will usually cool themselves off inside the water.

How: Raneh Falls is just 20 kms from Khajuraho, almost a half an hour drive. You can hire a vehicle or even take two-wheelers on rent from Khajuraho. Raneh Falls is in reserve forest, hence entry is not unrestricted. Entry is per vehicle (Rs 495 per vehicle for 1 to 6 persons). A guide is a must and his fees is 75 Rs. Fees for a single person without a vehicle is 55 Rs. All fees include Raneh falls as well as Ken Gharial sanctuary area. But boating is not included in this. One has to pay separately for that, and it is very cheap. There is also a forest rest house near the falls, where you can stay for just 1500 Rs per night per room.

Here is small video of the place-

Navigating through a fun-filled month of February

Its Spring time. This year we has less chill, still sing is always anticipated a lot. Time of romance and enjoyment. Carnival time at places around the world. With Basant Panchami and Valentine Day just falling within two days of each other, time for some of the best festivals for different tastes- whether it is dance, theatre, crafts, books or just fun. Presenting top 10 travel ideas for February, might not be in that order as each one of them has its own speciality. Go ahead…

1. DESERT FESTIVAL, JAISALMER

Desert-FestivalOnce a year in winter and in the middle of the continually rising and falling stark yellow sands of the great Thar Desert, the empty sands around Jaisalmer come alive with the brilliant colour, music and laughter of the Desert Festival. The festival is organized by the Department of  Tourism around January-February. The very rich and colourful Rajasthani folk culture is on show here for three days. Rajasthani men and tall beautiful women dressed in their bright costumes dance and sing lingering ballads of valour, romance and tragedy. Traditional musicians attempt to outdo each other in their musical superiority. The high points of the festival are – puppeteers, acrobats, camel tattoo show, camel races, camel polo, traditional procession, camel mounted band , folk dances, etc.  Proud moustached villagers, dressed in their ethnic best come astride their picturesquely caparisoned camels to join in the camel dances and competitions of camel acrobatics. Tug of war and Panihari Matka race are the events where visitors to the fair can participate and enjoy the thrill and taste of traditions. The turban tying competitions are big draws and laughter. The Mr. Desert competitions, which are focused around the length and style of moustaches and rustic physique wrapped in traditional costumes, many visitors.

When: 20-22 February 2016

2. KHAJURAHO DANCE FESTIVAL

KhajurahoEvery ancient monument has a fascinating story to tell. But few match the mystery wrapped around the temples of Khajuraho in central India. Once the capital of the great Chandela Kings, Khajuraho today is a quiet village of a few thousand people .It is also the setting of the Khajuraho Festival of Dances which draws the best classical dancers in the country every year, who perform against the spectacular backdrop of the floodlit temples. The seven-day extravaganza is a unique treat for connoisseurs from all over the world. The Khajuraho Festival of Dances draws the best classical dancers in the country who perform against the spectacular backdrop of the floodlit temples every year in February/March. The past and the present silhouetted against the glowing sun as the backdrop becomes an exquisite backdrop for the performers. In a setting where the earthly and the divine create perfect harmony – an event that celebrates the pure magic of the rich classical dance traditions of India. As dusk falls, the temples are lit up in a soft, dream-like ethereal stage. The finest exponents of different classical Indian styles are represented – Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Manipuri, and many more.

When: 20-26 February 2016

3. KILA RAIPUR RURAL OLYMPICS

Kila-RaipurIt was in 1933. Philanthropist Inder Singh Grewal visualised an annual recreational meet where farmers from areas surrounding Kila Raipur could get together and test their corporal endurance. The idea gave birth to Kila Raipur Sports, the undisputed “Rural Olympics”. In over six decades the festival has grown from a toddler to a prancing, energetic youthful organisation. This pioneer rural sports festival has become an annual international event, which is normally held in the first weekend of February. A dynamic team of organisers – Grewal Sports Association – has taken yet again another pioneering step of giving rural women a break in sports. Today this festival of the rustics attracts more than 4,000 sportsmen and women, both of recognised and traditional sports. The three-day festival is witnessed by more than a million people. Besides, several million others watch it on television, read about it in newspapers and magazines. Whether you are in Punjab or in Toronto or in Southall, you will know the latest about Kila Raipur Sports. Its participants come from all over the globe. Since it takes several months for the immigrants in England, Canada or the USA to select, train and send their Kabbadi and Tug of War teams to this festival which of late has become a truly international, talks about destination KILA RAIPUR start much early.

When: 4-7 February, 2016

4. TAJ MAHOTSVA, AGRA

Taj-MahotsavThis 10 days long carnival is actually a vibrant platform that gives you information of India where you can find India’s rich arts, crafts, cultures, cuisine, dance and music. Taj Mahal is the most beautiful historical place of India which tells about incredible India. Taj Mahotsav is organized by UP Tourism and it is a source to increase Indian Tourism. This cultural bonanza was started in year 1992 and since then its grandeur has reached to greater heights. This festival also figures in the calendar of events of the Department of Tourism, Government of India. A large number of Indian and foreign tourists coming to Agra joins this festivity in the month of February. One of the objectives of this craft mela is to provide encouragement to the Artisans. It also makes available the magnificent work of art and craft at the most reasonable and authentic prices that are not inflated by high maintenance cost. About 400 legendary artisans from different parts of the country get an opportunity to display their exquisite works of art. To name a few among them  are the wood/stone carvings from Tamil Nadu, Bamboo/cane work from North East India, Paper mash work from South India and Kashmir, the marble and zardozi work from Agra, wood carving from Saharanpur, brass wares from Moradabad, hand made carpets from Bhadohi, Pottery from Khurja, Chikan work from Lucknow, silk & zari work from Banaras, shawls & carpets from Kashmir/Gujarat and hand printing from Farrukhabad and Kantha stitch from west Bengal etc. Apart from the exquisite craft work you can experience the majestic and magnetic performances by artistes from every walks of life. The soul-stirring performances will engulf you to the extent of casting a spell. Throughout the Mahotsav, one can experience a profusion of folk & classical music & dances of various regions, especially the Brij Bhumi, performed the way they used to be centuries ago. The experience is so enthralling that you would not stop yourself from joining with the folk dancers. Besides the folk, the Mahotsav also exhibit the performance from the world renowned artistes from classical, semi-classical and popular art forms. Beside being the right destination for the arts & crafts, the Mahotsav is also a delight for the connoisseurs of good food as it is the ideal place to pamper the taste buds of the visitors with endless varieties of scrumptious dishes. Some of the oldest exponents of the cuisine-art prepare the lip-smacking dishes. One can also relish the typical preparations from the interiors of Uttar Pradesh. Funfair is the biggest attraction for children in the festival. It is a complete family entertainment which offers thrill and amusement for every one. Teenagers and adults enjoy various rides and roller coaster while children are happy with small ride such as merry-go-round, Train-rides and Ferris wheel.

When: 18-27 February, 2016

5. BHARAT RANG MAHOTSAV, DELHI

BharatRangIndia’s biggest theatre festival hosted by National School of Drama. With 12 participating countries, 82 productions in 23 languages and performances by 125 groups, the 18th edition of the Bharat Rang Mahotsav will begin from February 1 here.This year’s edition has been conceptualised and designed with the theme of ‘Breaking Borders’ and will organise World Theatre Forum on this topic where theatre luminaries from all over the world and across the country will come together to interact with the audience. Bharat Rang Mahotsav was established a decade ago by the National School of Drama to stimulate the growth and development of theatre across the country. Originally a national festival showcasing the work of the most creative theatre workers in India, it has evolved to international scope, hosting theatre companies from around the world, and is now the largest theatre festival of Asia. The 18th Mahotsav will include several national and international performances, and various associated events in a wrap-around program.

When: 1-21 February, 2016

6. SULA FEST, NASIK

SulafestHeld every year in India’s wine capital- Nasik’s Sula vineyards, Sula Fest is the celebration of wine, music and food. The country’s most gorgeously situated, eagerly awaited Gourmet World Music Festival is back and this one promises to be even bigger and better! It also marks the fashion statement as is underlined as a sponsor like Vera Moda. This year is its 9th edition. Last year more than 12 thousand people participated in the two day event. From 12:30 PM onwards, SulaFest partygoers can expect a megamix of great music, wine, drinks, food, fashion and shopping in the idyllic environs of the winery’s beautiful open-air, Greek-Style amphitheater. The likes of Social, The Bombay Food Truck, Olive Bar & Kitchen and Woodside Inn will serve up great food to go with the wine. At the popular Soleil by La Plage, Chef Morgan Rainforth has prepared a special menu with organic produce from Sula’s very own farms, offering a sit-down gourmet dining experience like no other. Spicing up the weekend will be the SulaFest Bazaar with a selection of fun items for sale. Foot massages, tarot reading, grape stomping, and a variety of other activities is sure to add to that fest-feel. The popular Tasting Room and the new rustic Tasting Cellar is expected to be exciting as always, with special tours and tastings to be given to wine enthusiasts. Apart from wines from the vineyards of Sula, fest-goers can also enjoy a wide selection of libations from around the world by Sula’s import arm Sula Selections. Hardys are on board as a wine partner and Asahi Super Dry Beer, Cointreau, Grant’s Reserve, Jägermeister, Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey and Stolichnaya Vodka.

When: 6-7 February, 2016

7. SURAJKUND CRAFTS FAIR

SurajkundOne of the most awaited fairs of north India happens to be very close to Delhi. Comes right at the nick of spring. With dates fixed for every year, it makes easier for travellers to plan. A marvellous mix of handicrafts, folk arts and folk dances makes it a crowd puller. With lots of food stalls representing different states, it has lot more to offer. Hosted by Haryana Tourism, this fair also has a large entertainment value. With Valentine Day coming towards the end of the festival, young ones from NCR find it tempting to have some funtime at Surajkund. This year visitors at the upcoming Surajkund Mela will be able to take a joy ride in a helicopter and enjoy an aerial view of the fair and surrounding areas. State-run helicopter operator Pawan Hans says it will be offering joy ride services to the visitors at the Surajkund International Crafts Fare which begins February 1 at Surajkund in Faridabad (Haryana). Every year, a country is chosen to be the Partner Nation that showcases the best of its art, culture, traditions and heritage during the Mela fortnight. The craftspersons, cultural troupes and master chefs from Lebanon will present their talent and skills to enthrall the visitors at the forthcoming Mela. Artists from many other states also actively participate. Craftsmen from Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and other states display their art. Every year, a theme state is chosen for the Mela, which highlights the state in totality from its architecture to fine arts and crafts. India’s youngest state Telangana has been chosen as the Theme State for the 30th Surajkund International Crafts Mela-2016. The state will showcase its tribal heritage and culture. A mobile app has been launched for the public, which can be downloaded for free on smartphones IOS (Apple) and Android operating systems.

When: 1-15 February, 2016

8. GOA CARNIVAL

Goa-CarnivalIndia’s answer to carnivals of Brazil, Caribbean and Europe. Carnival came to Goa with the Portuguese in 1510. This is the local version of the carnival celebrated worldwide before Mardi Gas. In the localised version parade is lead by local King Momo. This three day event is the place where all the colors of Goa come out in a glorious swagger and sweeps away the local as well foreign folks with its charm and charisma. Goa is almost synonymous with fun, music, food, entertainment and merry making and without any real doubt the only place in India that breaks away from the general image of the country as a conservative nation. It can be attributed to the historical fact that Goa was under Portuguese rule in the past and is still in its hang over. The Goa Carnival was started by the Portuguese rulers and since then it it has become an integral part of Goa. During the Carnival days Goa enters into a different zone of its own and become very crowded place. from every part of the world travelers come to enjoy the Goa Carnival. There is celebrations everywhere. Food and drinks are in plenty in accordance with live performances and multi-colored processions. The scene of Goa Carnival resembles some fairy tale descriptions where people hop around in jovial mood with masks on, fireworks, fortune tellers, group of dancers and and above all happy people all around. Music swings into Goa Carnival quite naturally. The myriad facets of the Goan music compels any onlooker to jig with it. The stylish Spanish guitar, the casual drum beats and the soulful voice are enough to make you move your feet. It is a perfect gateway for everyone who is on the verge of a virtual breakdown in today’s dull, dreary and mundane world. For this year Geovani Bosco Santimano has been selected as King Momo and is the chosen one to rule over the Carnival festivities scheduled in Goa between February 14 and 17. He will lead the Carnival float parades to be held in Panaji, Margao, Vasco and Mapusa.

When: 6-9 February, 2016

9. Sufi Sutra International Sufi Music Festival

SufiBack for the sixth year, this Sufi music festival is set to feature top Sufi and traditional folk musicians from Denmark, Iran, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Punjab, Rajasthan and West Bengal. Sufi music is qualified as “soul music” for Muslim mystics. It’s often used to transcend the physical realm into the spiritual one. There will be music workshops all day and free concerts all evening, as well as an exhibition. Sufi Sutra is an annual three day peace music festival held in Kolkata that brings about convergence of ideas on truth, harmony, peace and divinity. The cultural dialogues have developed mutual knowledge on world Sufi and traditional music and created scopes for performances to the visiting countries augmenting livelihood for the rural artists from India. Alike last year Sufi Sutra is again traveling to Goa this year Feb 10-11.

When: 5-7 February, 2016.

10. KALA GHODA ARTS FESTIVAL

Kala GhodaMumbai’s favourite cultural festival, the nine-day Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, is all set to kick-off on February 7. The KGAF calendar this year features dance, theatre, music and literature events, in addition to art installations, workshops, heritage walks and film screenings. This year’s festival also has a special section on urban design and architecture. Kala Ghoda this year has new elements in every section, and new venues and events. The opening ceremony will witness 70 dancers presenting a visual feast, based on the theme for the year — Sparsh [Hindi for Touch]. The venues this year include the historic Asiatic Library for literature workshops, while The Irish House will host stand-up comedy sessions. To reach out to more people, the literature and theatre sections will feature events in 20 different languages. The theatre fest is so grand and multi-lingual this year, we call it Rang Boli — a theatrical celebration of languages. This section will feature 51 performances. A new feature in the literature section is a long evening of prose that we have titled The Rampart Row Reading. It will be held at the Artists Centre gallery. For those looking forward to the diverse calendar of events, the return of the festival hasn’t been soon enough. The festival is quirky and fresh, bringing to us the best of art and culture. The art installations are amazing; the literature events enriching. The nine-day festival adds to the beauty of the city, with its rich programmes. Kala Ghoda is a festival so rich and diverse, yet binding us together. Music performances are exemplary, with elite artists performing for the whole city. It captures the city’s culture and gives the new generation a chance to connect with it.

When: 6-17 February, 2016

 

Kanupriya – An Odissi choreography

Kanupriya – An Odissi choreography presentation by Shubhada Varadkar at Khajuraho festival of dances 2015. Shubhada is a disciple of late guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. She has choreographed and performed at many prestigious national and international dance festivals. Her few recent productions- ‘Journey to Divinity’, “Chitrangada’, ‘Kanupriya’ and ‘Amrutghanu’ are a few ballets that have won her laurels from the art lovers across the world.

Kanupriya is a tale of mythological love between Radha and Krishna, but this is has a gender twist. This tale is about how Radha herself views this relationship. This is a journey of her soul to become one with God.

She herself feels that Kanu is her eternal playmate. Other times, he is protector, guardian… sometimes even she feels maternal love for him considering him to be an infant, who needs protections. At one point of time she will feel that she and her Kanu are one entity.

Its a journey of her emotions, her love and her bonding to Kanu. See the video of this dance-drama on my channel-