Monday, July 28, 2014

Khajuraho - Mystic Land Of Kamasutra

Day 20 Panna to Khajuraho

Distance: 40 km

Road condition: Very good.

Khajuraho is a wonderland of 85 magnanimous temples built by Chandela Rajputs in a short span of 100 years. Modern buildings built by highly qualified engineers with concrete and steel are unable to withstand natural calamities and crumble down like a house of cards. However, these ancient monuments have stood the test of time, the plunder, ravage and attack and continue to amaze us till date, attracting hoards of tourists from across the globe. These monuments have put India on the world map.

Monumental Architecture
These marvels were built with sandstone without using water. Each block is meticulously hand-placed in a way that nothing but gravity holds them together for all these centuries and many more to come. Undoubtedly, the architect must have been a math wizard and an engineer's engineer. The monuments stand tall today showcasing the skilled labor and hard-work of several thousand sculptors.

Life in every form and mood has been captured in stone. The much talked about erotic art comprises only 10% of all the sculptures. The primary focus of the temple art is day to day events, women admiring their body, applying sindoor, droplets of water on sur sundaries, people merry making, men marching to war, love marks left behind post an intense love making session.

Some of the intricate carvings have not only depicted various intense lovemaking sessions, but have also gone to the extent of portraying bold concepts such as bestiality.

Be sure to pay close attention to the carvings as they all have a story to tell. One such story is of a naughty elephant among a group of elephants who is not able to keep his eyes off a couple indulged in an act of love.

Of the original 85 temples only 22 have endured the ravage. They are divided into 3 groups, Western, Eastern and Southern.

Western group is the largest and most iconic among the 3. There are 10 temples within the compound, of which 'Kandariya Mahadeo' dedicated to lord Shiva is the tallest and most magnanimous. The peaks towering 31m high resemble the mighty Himalayas, the sculptors have gone to great length to bring life to these stones. Every inch of the temple compound is a treat to your eyes, the architecture is mesmerizing.

Audio tours are made available in multiple languages by Audio Compass. The quality of the products are good. There are guides available. However, taking an audio tour is best as you can be lost in that era for as long as you wish. It takes good 3 hours to cover the complete tour. The temples are open from 6 am to 6 pm.

The sound and light show is conducted here. There are 2 shows - one in English (7.30pm) and one in Hindi (8.40pm.) The show takes you back to the Chandela dynasty. It paints a live picture of the rise, fall and reinvention of the mystic Khajuraho temples.

Eastern & Southern Group: These are not as massive as the Western group but there has been no compromise made when it comes to the exquisite and brilliant carvings. Eastern group comprises of  3 temples - Brahma, Vamana & Javari.

Southern temple is dedicated to Shiva (Duladeo) and Vishnu (Chaturbhuj.) The Chaturbhuj temple is famous for its 15 ft high Vishnu Idol in the sanctum.

Eastern & Southern Group are usually missed out by the tourists, finding these groups can also be quite challenging as there is no proper signage. Ask for Gandhi chowk and the monuments are only a kilometer away. There is no entry fee to visit these monuments.

Do not miss out on the other hidden treasures, en route Chaturbhuj temple we stumbled upon a sign board mentioning a recently excavated Shiva temple - Bijamandal temple. An unpaved and narrow road lead us to a hillock and there stood the remains of a 10th century Shivling. It was quite a sight and is believed that Khajuraho has hundreds of other temples dated prior to the 10th century, that are waiting to be excavated.

Folk dance and cultural events are organized by MPTDC everyday at 7 & 8.15 pm at their regional office. They showcase the culture of MP, the music is good, sound system is OK. The performers do a fabulous job, the acrobatic performance is commendable. The colorful clothing & lights are a treat to your eyes.

UNESCO heritage monument Khajuraho is truly a treasure trove and filled with hidden mysteries. One of the temples depict the peaceful coexistence of various religions.

We checked into Tourist village run by MPTDC. Service and food is very good, the property is centrally located with all attractions within 2 km radius.

Khajuraho deserves an exclusive photo blog!

Leaving the mystic land behind we head to Orccha.

Khajuraho Thru Our Lens!

As someone rightly said 'A picture speaks a thousand words,' Khajuraho is a photographers delight & it's sculptures scream for an exclusive photo blog!

Stunning Kandariya Mahadeva Temple
Inspired By The Himalayan Peaks
Exquisite Carving
Pride Of Khajuraho
Parsvanath Jain Temple
Meditating - Adinath 
Architectural Marvel
Duladeo Temple
Eastern Group - Khajuraho
Lakshmana Temple
Men & Women Merrymaking
Keeping Carnal Desires Alive 
Immersed In Eternal Pleasure
Hunting Tales
Music, Action & Drama
Mammoths Marching
Council of Ministers
Enjoying Life To The Fullest
Chaturbhuj Temple
Ganpati Bappa Morya
Acrobatic Love Making
Sublime Craftsmanship
Everlasting Impressions
Chitragupta Temple
Jewel Of Western Group
Islam, Buddhism & Hinduism Peacefully Coexisting

Best of Khajuraho.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Panna National Park

Day 18 Amarkantak to Panna Via Rewa 

Distance: 392 km

Road Condition: Good roads with occasional potholes. A stretch of 20 km in between has no roads. However, work is in progress to lay roads. On this stretch oncoming heavy vehicle creates a cloud of dust completely blinding the driver.

Panna, a hidden treasure far away from the hustle and bustle of the city, way off the tourist radar due to it's slim tiger population. Compared to other national parks, this park is very calm minus the tiger centric crowd. This makes the jungle safari a pleasant and serene experience.

Panna National Park
Ken river, the lifeline of Panna National Park is a rich source of uncontaminated water flowing through the dense forest, an ideal living condition for the marsh crocodiles. Apart from jeep safari the park also offers boat safari to witness crocodiles basking in the sun. If you are lucky enough you could even spot an elusive leopard quenching it's thirst. Minimum charges for the boat ride is Rs. 200 for 4 people.

Massive Ken River

Due to rampant poaching, in 2009 the entire tiger population was wiped out. 2 female tigers and a male tiger were then relocated from Bandhavgarh, Kanha and Pench respectively. Rigorous conservation efforts by the forest department and locals has led to an increase in the tiger population. Currently, the number stands at 27. There are designated teams tracking the movement of tigers keeping them safe from poachers.

The forest department might block some safari routes if there has been a kill. While we were there, one route was off-limits as there was a fresh kill by a tigress with 3 cubs. On another occasion, we saw the carcass of a leopard being carried away by the forest officials, word is a duel broke-out between the tigress and the leopard.

Safari expenses: Jeep charges Rs. 1500, guide 300, camera charges 250, park entry fee 1000. Do checkout the museum at the ticket booking counter.

We took 3 safaris and spotted vultures. Panna is one of the last few natural habitats for these endangered species. A rocky terrain leads to great view of deep gorge, also known as Vulture point. It would be a spectacular sight to see water fall into the gorge during monsoon.

Crested Serpent Eagle
Thanks to the sheer brilliance of our guide, Suresh, we spotted a highly camouflaged nightjar. It took us a while to differentiate the bird from the twigs around.

Camouflaged Nightjar
Up Close
Other wildlife sighting included tigers cooling off by the river, crocodiles basking in the sun, grey hornbill, stork billed kingfisher, eagles, paradise flycatcher, rufous tree pie, oriental magpie, mongoose.

Stork Billed Kingfisher
Changeable Hawk Eagle
Other tourist attraction in Panna- Pandava falls. A few things to note - guide service is mandatory, charges at Rs 60 and the falls is 600 mt away from the gate. Legend is, Pandavas spent a couple of years during their exile at this place. A flight of 100 steps leads to the caves. The falls is alluring and would be quite a sight during monsoon. The caves are in pretty bad shape, the govt has closed the caves all you get to see is 2 mt of the caves. The guide says if one is extremely lucky they could spot bear, leopard or tiger here. We are not sure how lucky you would be if you have a face-off with any of these.

Pandava Caves
We checked into MPTDC Jungle Camp, Madla zone, the property shares it's boundary with the park. They provide AC tented accommodation which are very cozy, rooms are spacious and clean with TV, small fridge and comfortable sit out.  The best part is safari booking office is hardly a kilometer away.

However, the service standards of the hotel are horrendous. During our 2 days stay in the month of April, there were frequent and lengthy power cuts. Despite having backup generators the management refused to switch them on even after repeated requests. The bizarre reason given was 'The guy who switches on the gen set was not available.'

In addition, they overcharged us Rs 500 for every jeep safari we took. This being a Government owned and run hotel, these charges were unacceptable. The jeep drivers employed by the hotel try to save fuel and refuse to drive on rugged terrain. The point of taking a jungle safari is defeated.

Also, food is bad. Management is not reachable at any given time. We highly recommend you to stay away from this property.

Do check out Ken River Lodge for stay options.

With great expectations we head to Khajuraho.