Sunday, January 28, 2018

Gyaraspur Monuments - A little known architectural wonders in Madhya Pradesh

Gyaraspur - One name which many may not have heard of unless you have some association with Vidisha district of Madhya Pradesh. Its is situated around 35kms from town of Vidisha on Vidisha - Sagar road. The name it seems was derived from a fair which is held at the eleventh month of Hindu calendar hence the name Gyaras and pur meaning a small town. Irony is most don't even know that there is a statue of lady called "Shalabhanjika" kept at Gujari Mahal museum - Gwalior which is considered a matchless beauty by many historians and experts. The statue is called as Indian Venus or Monalisa statue in stone. It was discovered in Gyaraspur.

History: The Kachhapagatha dynasty ruled the North West parts of Madhya Pradesh during the 10th and 12th CE. They are assumed to be progeny of the Nagas and were the vassals of Gurjara - Pratiharas and later of the Chandelas of Central India. This dynasty contributed much to art and architecture and many temples were built under their patronage. Their early work followed the Gurjara - Pratiharas style and later developed unique and new trends in temple constructions. 

Gyaraspur was of considerable importance in medieval India. The extensive ruins scattered around narrate the glory of Gyaraspur in the late and early medieval times. The ruins indicate the place has passed through the influence of Brahmanism, Jainism & Buddhism. Since its a small town all monuments can be visited walking around.

1) Maladevi temple: This 9th century temple is situated around 1.5kms from the bus stand on a small hill overlooking a valley. Its seems part of the hill was scooped out to built this temple on a massive platform and strengthened by massive retaining wall. The Pratihara period temple is constructed on eastern slope and temple structure has an entrance, hall and shrine. The Shrine is surrounded by very ornate passage. As per the caretaker who acted as our guide, the statues of Hindu goddess which though are missing, were present on all the sides of the temple like a garland and hence the name Mala devi.

Front view

Ornamented pillar

Ornate pillars which hides the interlocking

Beautiful balconies

Inside the sanctum four Tirthankara's can be seen seated in padmasana. Ornamented with Jain Yaksha, Yakshini and Hindu deities on outside. The Sanctum entrance has block on outer frame of goddess Ganga & Jamuna while richly carved shikhara above the sanctum has Vaishnavi seated on Garuda. The pillars outside as well as inside the temple is ornamented with beautiful designs. The sculptures probably indicate that the temple was originally dedicated to some goddess and it was subsequently appropriated by the Jains.

Today the sanctum sanctorum is a very crumbling state due to which no one is allowed inside the temple. Beehives can be seen inside the rocks. But good news is that MP tourism & ASI would be jointly commencing the work to restore the temple to its lost glory soon.

2) Hindola Toran: It is one of the most beautiful ornamental entrance arches or Toranas to a now destroyed Vishnu or a Trimurti temple. What remains today is these two lofty pillars with a cross beam intricately carved into panels with insets of ten incarnations of Vishnu. Words fail to describe this intricately carved monument and its a visual treat to the eyes.

3) Chaukhambha: This monument is part of Hindola torana where the Chaukhamba would have been four pillars of mandapa of a Brahmanical temple and torana would have been ornamental entrance arch to the shrine. Chaukhamba, which are equally adorned by ornate carvings on all sides, means four pillars and sadly that is what only remains of what once would have been a beautiful temple complex. The ruins of larger temple complex can be seen scattered around the monuments.

As per our guide and caretaker of the monument, ASI has plans for this monument to be restored back and work would commence soon. MP tourism has created a boundary wall and garden in the complex as there is a caretaker present in the compound 24/7.

4) Athkhambha: Located close to bus stand, is set of delicately carved eight pillars which could have been columns of what was suppose to be a 9th century Shiva temple. Looking at the ornamented pillars shows the high degree of craftsmanship of sculptors of those days.

5) Bajramath Temple: Situated at little away on the south side of the village is the triple shrine temple complex called Bajramath. The entire triple shrine is in single row of same structure. The 10th century temple gates, door and back parts are engraved with Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu. This temple was transformed into Jain temple at a later date during which time the Tirthankara statues were established. Varaha avatar of God Vishnu, Narasimha, Shiva can be seen on the niches on the external wall. Bajramath is yet another fine example of very rare class of temple with three shrines and shows the exemplary craftsmanship of sculptors of the time.

6) Dhaikinath Stupa: This is about 1.3kms from the bus stand and there is straight road near the Athkhambha monument which leads to the stupa. The Hemispherical dome on circular berm is incompletely preserved. Nothing much to see here except the 7th century monument.

Gyaraspur is small village with no proper lodging facility but small eateries can be found on the main road. Regular bus services are available to & from Vidisha where we stayed. Auto rickshaw can also be hired from Vidisha for half day trip to Gyaraspur. Further ahead around 90kms from Vidisha is town of Udaypur which is also famous for its art & architecture that flourished under Parmar rulers of 11th century.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Trail through woods and Apple Orchards - Hike to Goshal Village in Manali

Travelling - It leaves you speechless and then it turns you into a storyteller. By Ibn Battuta 

How true this quote is when I write my experience of a hike to a small village on outskirts of Manali which left us speechless with our walk in woods and through heart of Apple Orchards near old Manali. It all started with culmination of our Leh Ladakh journey and a day to spare in Manali. After a week of travelling by car in Leh Ladakh and ending the trip in Manali, It was a relaxing day for our group, We decided to spent our day by visiting Hidimba temple and do a stroll in old Manali. Old Manali is around 3 kms from New Manali which is separated by bridge over gushing waters of Beas river. A complete uphill climb, Old Manali lane is flanked by restaurants and cafes serving wide varieties of International cuisines from Israel to Korea. More frequented by foreigners, We can find shopkeepers and cafe owners talking fluently in Hebrew or Italian or French.

The last stretch of old Manali lane is a steep climb lined with few village houses and ends at magnificent old temple dedicated to sage Manu who is suppose to be the creator of the world and writer of Manusmriti.

Glimpse of old manali house

Glimpse of old manali house
Manu temple

Just before the temple we spotted a board "Trek to Goshal Village - 2 kms, Trek to Solang Valley - 11 kms". And that just set the ball rolling in our head to atleast trek till Goshal village. It was mid afternoon and we had all the time in our hand and more importantly it was a clear day in rainy month of August. Just a few blocks behind Manu temple lies this last cafe on the road called "Rocky's cafe". The cafe provides one of the most spectacular views of the Manali Mountains. One could spend like an entire day sitting in cafe sipping on tea / coffee reading a book or just plain sit and watch the mesmerizing view of the mountains. They also offer stay in neat & tidy rooms and have a restaurant serving simple lunch and dinner. 

R-cafe location and magnanimous view was too alluring for few of our group members who decided to spent rest of the afternoon at the cafe enjoying the hot cuppa while for four of us, the sign board of 2 km trek to Goshal village was too appealing and we decided to go ahead.

The road ends at R-cafe and steps carved into the rocks leads us into the woods. As it always happens on treks, there were these two dogs which followed us on the trail like our guide in the woods. 

The initial steps gave way to a narrow path in the woods with pine trees on both sides. The rainy season had turned the mountains in green belt with lush greenery all around. 

After a walk of around 30 minutes the path became precariously narrow with deep valley on one side with just enough space for one person to walk and rocky mountains on the other. The trail seemed exciting and we decided to continue as it was only 2 kms and we could always turn back if we got lost. At one of the spots there were steps cut on rocky patch. 

The rocky patch climb gave us the most amazing view of Manali valley & cloud covered mountains on other side. As we walked further from here we were welcomed by trees laden with Apples as far as we could see. This was most beautiful part of hike - A hike through heart of Apple orchard. With no one to look over us and ever inviting apple laden trees, it was difficult for us to stay away and not pluck apples.

We did come across few houses in the orchard but they seemed to be empty. Our trail at some places was confusing with two paths going in different directions but we decided to stick with path which was more prominent. Our walk continued for over 2 hrs but still there was no sight of Goshal village. We blindly followed our path which was now leading downwards away from apple orchards.

To our disappointment our hike ended abruptly on a tar road which was not something we wanted or expected. But we could sense human activity and roar of engine few meters away and decided to walk further on tar road. Around few blocks from where we entered tar road were some shops where Apple was being collected after being plucked from the orchards. 

We asked the villagers around who confirmed that we were indeed on right path and Goshal village was few hundred meters away. With sigh of relief we decided to at least get a glance and few pictures before starting the return journey. We reached a nice rocky spot overlooking a Goshal village where we took our final halt. 

Goshal village was a pretty quaint village with few houses and narrow winding lanes in between. But the best part was the exotic village location with Solang valley further ahead and Vasisht village & temple on opposite mountain. The village is away from Manali hustle bustle, right in middle of mountain and Apple orchards all around. For someone looking to stay in calm and peaceful location then this village would be ideal place. The village is around 3kms from Manali through motorable road while it is 2 kms through the path we took from old Manali.

Happy Happy

Return journey begins

Happy to have reached Goshal village and after clicking few pictures we decided to follow the same path to reach old Manali. Our return journey was bit tough for the downhill path we came from was now our uphill climb and there was no longer any excitement left. 

But we managed to complete our return journey in half the time it took for us to reach Goshal village. Highlight of our return journey was a small spring of water in the rocks from where SB decided to quench her thirst, it turned out the water had weird taste and when asked how was it ? she made a funny face saying "AMRIT "which made all of us burst in laughter.

The hike to Goshal village was worth all the effort and may be on our next visit would love to try 11 kms trek to Solang valley. We signed off our trek with hot cuppa and some rest for our legs at Rocky's cafe before heading down to our hotels. 

From Rocky's cafe 

Our Hot Cuppa
Have you done any treks, trails or a small hike in Manali ? How was your experience ? Do share your experiences.