Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Impregnable Devagiri Fort! Never Defeated In Battle

One of the most formidable Forts in India, the Devagiri fort, has only one accessible approach which was fiercely and ruthlessly guarded during the medieval Deccan era. This invincible fort with the most complex and intricate defense system remained undefeated in battle. Legend has it that during the Devagiri period the Royal family challenged people to try and gain access to the fort and claim rewards. However, the reward was never claimed by anyone. Numerous attempts by Mughal invaders to conquer this fort resulted in failure and finally they had to resort to treachery to rule over this fort.

It is believed that Lord Shiva resided in the surrounding hills and hence the name Devagiri 'Hill of Gods.' This fort was built by King Bhillama V of the Yadava Dynasty. After its conquest by Allaudin Khilji in 1926 AD, it remained under the Mughal rule and in 1328 AD, Mohammed Bin Tughlak changed the name from Devagiri to Daulatabad 'Abode of Wealth.' He was also responsible for shifting the capital from Delhi to Daulatabad forcing the entire population to relocate but due to lack of water and other resources, he was forced to move the capital back to Delhi. Just imagine the plight of a common man enduring such hardships, even the sick and old were not spared.

At a height of 200 mt on a conical hill, 16 km from Aurangabad, this 11th century fort, a blend of land and hill fort has three encircling fortification walls. These walls were built in a way that the entire town was divided into sectors- Amberkot for common people, Mahakot served as the residential area of the higher class of the society, the Kalakot was the Royal residential area with double line of fortifications and Balakot was the pinnacle portion where the pride of honor the flag fluttered. At every interval there were strong chambers that served both as guardrooms and storage place for grains and ammunition. The outer wall is 5 km in circumference with an average height of 6-9 mt and a thickness of 2-3 mt.

With flawless military engineering, this architectural marvel was defended well with its complex arrangement of bastions at regular intervals, maze like passages, lofty gates with iron spikes and strategic position of gun turrets.The rock around the fort was chiseled skillfully making the climb impossible. The fort was defended by moat around the hill at its foot and the only way to enter was via a mechanical drawbridge. In case of an attack, crocodiles in the moat hindered their entry, flaring torches were unleashed on the enemy forces, hot oil poured in their path, the iron spikes on the lofty gates to attack enemy's elephants and numerous confusing passages lured the enemy to their death.

Such exemplary defense system left us wondering if these pains were taken to protect something that valuable or was it more of a matter of pride and honor of being indomitable.

Once you enter the fort, you are greeted with a number of canons that are displayed in the courtyard near the entrance gate while others remain in their original places such as bastions on fort walls and circular towers. This huge collection of canons is a show of strength.

After crossing the passage post the entrance gate, we reached an open area from where the Hathi Tank and Bharat Mata Temple were on our left and a couple of hundred meters ahead of us were a fleet of steps leading to the pinnacle of the fort. Midway the Chand Minar standing tall was quiet a sight.

Hathi Tank or Elephant Tank- It is known as the Hathi tank because of its gigantic size. This fort is known for its unique water management system with a network of terracotta pipelines and drains that provided water to the entire city. The capacity is estimated to be at 10000 cubic m.

The site at which stands the Bharat Mata/Mother India temple was earlier a Hindu temple that was ransacked by the Mughal Invaders and converted to a mosque. Now, it has been restored to a temple dedicated to Bharat Mata. The present monument comprises of 106 pillars which were ransacked from Hindu and Jain temples. The ransacked pillars lying in the premises paint a picture of arrogance and a trial of destruction.

The Chand Minar stands tall at 63 feet and reminds you of the Qutub Minar in Delhi. It was erected in 1445 by Ala-ud-din Bahmani to commemorate his capture of the fort. This used to be covered in Persian glazed tiles all over but now only the structure remains with most of the prized decorations lost over time.

The Chini Mahal or China Palace, was a palace of great beauty then and it was here that Abdul Hasan Tana Shah, the last of the Qutub Shahi kings of Golconda, was imprisoned by Aurangazeb in 1687.

This fort is indeed mysterious, intriguing and very much unlike any other fort. No wonder, it remained undefeated in battle. One of the best constructed forts in the world, despite the ruthless history behind it, it seems to have survived unaltered.

The fort rich in history and the pride of many dynasties boasting an unachievable feat of being undefeated makes you want to venture out to this place, hardly visited by tourists, to appreciate it.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Photo Blog Of Lonar & Its Temples

The Lonar crater lake is not the only thing that makes this town worth visiting. The temples in the town and around the lake are an unforgettable sight. The ruins, the architecture, the trek and the mystery around their existence all make Lonar a memorable destination.

Daitya Sudan Temple
Intricate Carvings at Daitya Sudan
Inner Sanctum Beautifully Carved

Crater Lake

Ruins hidden deep in the forest

Erotic Sculptures

Ocean Of Milk, Scenes From The Puranas

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Lonar Crater Lake!

One of its kind phenomena on the planet is the Lonar Crater Lake with geological, geographical, mythical, scientific wonders - all served in one platter. The only hyper-velocity crater lake in the world formed from basaltic rock was created by a meteor impact some 52000 years ago and is the third largest salt water lake in the world. The mystery behind the aftermaths of the meteor impact as to why a compass fails to work in some parts of the crater, how it is able to support some rare micro-organisms that are hardly found at any other place on the planet, why is the water alkaline and saline and what lurks at the bottom of this lake make it even more intriguing.

The lake has been mentioned in some ancient scriptures such as the Skanda Purana, Padma Puran and Aina-i-Akbari. Locals believe that the town got its name Lonar after Lord Vishnu defeated the demon Lonasura. Scattered around the periphery of the lake are fifteen exquisite temples giving us a feel that they stand guard to protect the lake, barely the remains of which now stand to tell the tale of the glorious past. 

We were left awestruck when we caught the first glimpse of the green water surrounded by thick forests all around the lake and the steep slopes made us aware of the significant impact of the meteor. It was time to begin our trek and we started our descend but little did we realize that the descend would be fast, steep and slippery. Once we descended, we were greeted by Ram Mandir and Shiva Mandir. Of course, these temples are all in ruins now, a few of them even bat infested but these structures now covered in moss got us thinking of the purpose behind their existence. 

Walking around the circumference of the lake through the forest, thick shrubs, wetlands and rugged rocky terrain, we visited each of the temples. They had a magnetic charm and drew us towards them either due to their forgotten past or the architecture, both equally fascinating. The walls and pillars had exquisite carvings and sculptures some even erotic reminding us of the similarity it shares with the Khajuraho style of temples, the intricacy in all of it even when ransacked stands out speaking volumes of ancient times.

Post monsoon, a few of them are said to be partially submerged in water. Due to the salt content of the lake with PH levels at 10.7, the temple structures have faced lot of erosion and continue to do so. Only one of the temples is in great shape and the religious rituals happens everyday. 

It is not just for the crater that people visit this place. It is great place for trekkers and bird watchers. The area around the crater is rich in flora and fauna and it is indeed surprising to see birds and wildlife thriving in this vicinity. Apart from resident birds such as Indian roller, magpies, grey hornbill and others it also is a haven for a lot of migratory birds. It is also home for thousands of peafowls and chinkara, so don't be surprised if peacock calls keep you occupied during your trek. We ended up spotting a porcupine carcass and snake skin hidden behind one of the temple's pillar. While the place is void of people but for a few trekkers, once a year the locals gather here to celebrate Kamala Devi festival. 

After the trek around the lake, you start your climb and you are greeted by a waterfall and a mysterious perennial source of fresh drinking water, the source of which has never been established. Then comes the toughest part of climbing up a fleet of rock cut steps and on reaching the top you are greeted by the most striking Dhar. This is an ideal spot to end the tiring trek and it was a lovely moment to see the sunset with stellar views of the Lonar Crater Lake. 

Do keep in mind that this is not an easy trek, first we had to trek down 650 mt and then walk around the lake which is  roughly about 5 km. For the trek, you need a pair of perfect trekking shoes and a day pack with water and snacks. Once you start your trek there are no shops en-route. Safety is paramount, it is highly advisable to hire a guide as the route is tricky and at times the pathway is hidden behind thick shrubs. For hiring a guide, we highly recommend the services of  Mr. Rathore- a fine, knowledgeable, kind, patient and honest man. He is very informative and can be reached on- 9158925048.

A kilometer away from the crater and in the middle of the town, is another stunning structure- Daitya Sudan Temple. This Hemadpanthi style of temple is dated to the Chalukya dynasty that ruled parts of India between 6th and 12 century. Inside the inner sanctum do glance at the corner of the ceiling to be blown-away. It was breathtaking to see every nook and corner of the temple being decked up with stunning art. This temple is a stunning monument and reminded us of the great vibrant past this part of the country had.

Stay options in Lonar are very limited with a handful of very basic hotels. Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) runs a full fledged resort that is in fine form. This is one of the best properties to stay in Lonar. Also, this is the only place in town that serves good food. Autos are available easily and charge a reasonable amount to commute within the town. The resort people are very helpful and they arranged an auto for us to get back to our lodge post dinner. 

We checked into Krushna Lodge opposite the Bus Stand. It is a very basic lodge with spacious, clean rooms and is centrally located with easy access to autos that take you to the Crater Lake. The service at the lodge is pretty good. 

The best way to reach Lonar would be to reach Aurangabad first, and then a bus ride from CIDCO Bus terminal drops you directly at Lonar town for Rs.158 per person . If you happen to miss the direct bus, you can hop on to any bus heading to Sultanpur. From here, there are plenty of autos that ply to Lonar as it is just 11 km from Sultanpur.  The journey from Aurangabad to Lonar is very pleasant and we got to see the country side of India that is blessed with green pastures and the occasional brightly painted homes. 

Lonar Photo Blog.