Chanderi

As the Betwa river welcomes you with open arms, walk right into the heart of India- Madhya Pradesh. This region has charm and allure like no other place. The vigorous expanse of clear water flows through the Rajghat Dam, which also happens to be one of the largest dams in India. As you make your way into the hinterland and cross the large plots of farm land stepping into Pranpur, a small village (just north of Chanderi), you you will witness to your delight, the absence of large crowds and the hullabaloo of the city life. The villagers are very welcoming and humble enough to invite you over for a meal, or at the least, have a cup of tea with them.

Chanderi is known to have its roots back in Vedic history and is believed to be found by Lord Krishna’s cousin, Shishupal.

While crossing the narrow lanes of the village, you will be acquainted with the idea that there were several communities that coexisted in that village and almost all of them shared the same mode of income, of weaving beautiful Chanderi sarees that have been the highlight of Chanderi since ages.

Weaving in Chanderi began as early as the 14th century era and continues till date. Named after the historically strategic town of Madhya Pradesh to which it belongs, Chanderi is a hand-woven fabric, unique in its translucent and sheer texture. What lends the fabric this quality is not the fine thread used for weaving, but the use of single flature yarn. In this type of yarn, the “glue” of the raw yarn is not removed, and this non-degumming causes the finished fabric to shine in its transparency. While the transparent yarn might be of cotton or silk, about 90% of Chanderi saris are made from a cotton-silk blend. The fabric has been around for about 600 years now since the Mughal period.

The town of Chanderi is home to about 3500 families of various communities who base their livelihood on the weaving of Chanderi fabrics. In the last four years, there has been an unprecedented boom in the demand for Chanderi saris and fabrics. This has led to an improvement in the wages and working conditions of the weavers.

There is always a head potter and a head weaver, the one who will take you across various households and acquaint you with the works of various other artists and how their work and culture is celebrated in their village. Try your hand in pottery and contribute to their collection of mud utensils, making which is usually a woman’s job, as the men out there believe that their job is making the larger murals for the festive season. Pass through the traditional stepwell- also known as the “baoli”, where children are normally seen splashing water on each other.

The “clickety clack” sounds will grow rapidly as you walk through the bylanes of this artistically rich part of Chanderi. The sounds of the weaver’s loom will make you curious to sneak peek in any of the houses. Spend some good amount of time inside the houses where the weaving of Chanderi sarees is done and know your artistic side better as you try your hand on the loom of the weaver. Apart from spending time with the family, take along a few artworks back home!

Pranpur is one place that rejoices its art form like no other place does and adds to the rich cultural heritage of this country. Where not many places in and around India make a serious attempt at making its presence felt, there are places like Chanderi, that through the medium of its artwork and the expertise it has in the field of pottery, climb up the ladder one step at a time to make its remarkable existence in todays world.

Not only is this town known for its artworks, but also for the various monuments, museums, temples and palaces that bring glory to Chanderi. The town is full of historical landmarks, dating from the 11th century to the 18th century. A ;large number of monuments are constructed in the main town as well as on the outskirts. To name a few there are the Kaushak Mahal, Thubon, Chanderi museum, Jain temples, village’s stepwell, Jama masjid and Badal Mahal, that mesmerises any traveller traveling to this counterpart. Other activities include visiting the homes of the weavers and potters during the heritage walk in Pranpur (we have been there and witnessed all of it by ourselves).

So don’t miss out on this colourful place while on your visit to India for their is a lot more than meets the eye!

Burhanpur

Burhanpur, the land of five magistical wonders is quietly nestled in the heart of the country – Madhya Pradesh, and is probably one of the most underrated places of historical importance. It is ignoble to see the entire town being enveloped with over 500 monuments, yet finding no significant place in history. In reality, it is a treasure of unplumbed sites that are still unheard of. The name of the city was first found in the history of Rashtrakuta dynasty at around 753-982. Later it has been renamed after a demotic Sufi saint Burhan-ud-Din around the year 1388.

The city has a rich heritage and a cultural past which also holds religious importance for Sikhism. Out of the 500 monuments that caps the town, there are a few that highlight the grandiose of this place. To name a few, the Dargah-e-hakimi, Jama Masjid, Mughal Bagh Palace (Shahi qila), Zenana hammam, Khooni Bhandar and the grand fort of Asirgarh which is another 30 kms from the main town of Burhanpur will dominate the loop. Most of the monuments here date back to the Mughal Era. The gurdwara here too holds one rare copy of the Guru Granth Sahib, signed in golden ink by Guru Gobind Singh himself.

The Shahi Qila is a majestic palace in Burhanpur that was built under the reign of the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan. It is believed that he spent considerable amount of his time here, at Burhanpur and the main attraction of the Qila that was the ‘hamam’ was built under his order, for his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal.

Burhanpur is bustling with many places of interest such as the Jama Masjid, a sacred place of muslims that attracts the onlookers with its two 35 meters high pillars; the Ichchha Devi temple, that witnesses huge gatherings during the fairs and festivals with many people coming here to get their wishes fulfilled; the Khuni Bhandar, which is a cluster of 8 water tanks that were constructed back in 1615 by Abdul Raheem Khankhana, to provide water storage for the city; and lastly, the Asirgarh Fort, which is located on an elevated hill near the town. It is also known as the Dakkhan ka Darwaza, which means the door to South India.

Apart from the places of historical importance, the handloom industry in Burhanpur also has a glorious past and holds great significance in developing the heritage of the city. It is still on the verge of flowering, yet contributes beautifully in augmenting the name of this place.

Ajaigarh

Ajaigarh, the town takes its name from the place, Nowgong where the chief resided, at the foot of the hill-fortress. It is around 36 km from the town of Panna and 80 km from the famous town of Khajuraho. The fort located on a steep hill, towers more than 800 ft above the eponymous township, and contains the ruins of a number of temples highlighted with richly engraved sculptures. The rulers bore the title of sawai maharaja. It was the capital of the Chandelas during their decline.

Ajaigarh was the capital of a princely state of the same name during the British Raj. Ajaigarh was established in 1765 by Guman Singh, a bundela Rajput. It was captured by the British in 1809; it became a princely state in the Bundelkhand Agency.

The town was often afflicted by malaria, and suffered harshly from famine in 1868-1869 and 1896-1897.

The state acceded to the Government of India on January 1, 1950; the ruling chief was granted a privy purse and the courtesy use of his styles and titles. All of these were revoked in the year1971 by the government of India. The former princely state became part of the new Indian state of Vindhya Pradesh, and most of the territory of the former state, counting the town of Ajaigarh, became part of Panna District, with a smaller section going to Chhatarpur District.

Lucknow

Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, extends along the banks of the River Gomti. The city is dotted with remnants of its historic past and became known as a centre for Urdu poetry and courtly diction. Visit the Bara Imambara, built by Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula in 1784, one of the architectural highlights of the era. The central hall is believed to be the largest vaulted chamber in the world. Except in the galleries in the interior, no woodwork has been used in the structure. See the Rumi Darwaza – the colossal, ornate gate which is a replica of the one in Istanbul; Hussainabad Imambara built by Mohammed Ali Shah in 1835. The walls of the mausoleum are decorated with verses in Arabic. Chandeliers, gilded mirrors, colourful stucco, the King’s throne and ornate tazia or replicas of the tombs at Karbala adorn the interior.

Nathdwara

Nathdwara is a popular Hindu pilgrimage site. This is one of the most celebrated pilgrimage shrines of India, enshrining Krishna as Govardhana Giridhari. Nathdwara enshrines Shrinathji – an image of Krishna, which was originally enshrined at the Vraja Bhoomi at Mount Govardhana near Mathura.The name Nathdwara means ‘Gate of the Lord’. The image was brought to Mewar, for the sake of protection during the period of Aurangazeb, the Mughal monarch.

The chariot carrying the image is said to have gotten stuck here, and hence a temple was established with the permission of the then Rana of Mewar, at Nathdwara. Nathdwara is very closely associated with the Vallabha Sampradaya of Vaishnavism. Prior to his visiting the Shrinathji shrine, Vallabhacharya is said to have described Puri, Pandharpur, Srirangam and Tirupati as four great centres of Vaishnavism, in his work ‘Tatvartha Deepa Nibhandha’.The town is an agricultural market and has a government college affiliated with the University of Rajasthan.

Kota

Kota (formerly Kotah) is a city in the Northern Indian state of Rajasthan. Situated on the Chambal River. Kota is famous for its distinctive style of painting. Kota is well known for its saris and stone products. The commanding fort stands overlooking the modern Chambal Valley Project with its many dams – Kota Barrage, Gandhi Sagar, Rana Pratap Sagar and Jawahar Sagar. An old palace, dating back to the time when Kota was under the control of the Chieftaincy of the Hadotis, faces the Kota Barrage. The Durbar Hall is ornate with beautiful mirror work and has ebony and ivory doors. Exquisite miniatures of the Kota school are housed within the Hall.

Kushinagar

It is here that the Buddha is reputed to have breathed his last words, ‘Decay is inherent in all component things’ and expired. Pilgrims now come here in large numbers to see the remains of his brick cremation stupa, the large reclining Buddha figure in the Mahaparinirvana Temple, the modern India-Japan-Sri Lanka Buddhist Centre and the monasteries.

Shrawasti

The extensive ruins of this ancient city and Jetavana monastery are here, near the villages of Sateh-Maheth. It was at shravasti that the Buddha performed the miracle of sitting on a 1000-petalled lotus and multiplying himself a million times, fire and water emanating from his body. Ashoka was among the early pilgrims and left a couple of pillars to commemorate his visit.

Allahabad

Allahabad is one of the sacred cities of Hinduism and also one of the oldest in India. The city was formerly called Prayag. Allahabad stands on the confluence of India’s two of the holiest rivers, the Ganga and the Yamuna.

The great Mughal Emperor Akbar visited Prayag in 1575 and founded a new city by the name of Illahabas, which has now become modern Allahabad. The city was an important cantonment during the British period of India and has some beautiful remnants of colonial architecture. The Allahabad University was the foremost centre for learning in the early 20th century.

Mount Abu

Situated at the southern tip of the Aravali range, this hill retreat owes its cool climate to its rich flora covering the entire hillside that includes coniferous trees and flowering shrubs. The only hill station in Rajasthan, its stunning array of exquisite Dilwara Jain temples, dating back to 11th – 13th centuries, makes it a popular pilgrimage centre.