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.

Khajuraho

Situated in the heart of Central India, Khajuraho is a fascinating village with a quaint rural ambience and a rich cultural heritage. The fascinating temples of Khajuraho, India’s unique gift of love to the world, represent the expression of a highly matured civilization of Chandela Rajputs. Khajuraho temples were constructed between 950 and 1050 A.D. during the reign of Chandel Empire.

Originally there were 85 temples, of which only 22 are existing scattered over an area of about 21 sq km. The 85 temples were built in North Indian ‘Nagara’ style of architecture. All the temples were constructed amazingly within a short span of 100 years (950 AD – 1050 AD). With the wane of the Chandela empire, these magnificent temples lay neglected, and vulnerable to the ravages of nature. They were rediscovered in the last century, restored and granted the recognition of World Heritage Monuments.

If the temples of Khajuraho can be said to have a theme, it is woman. A celebration of woman and her myriad moods and facets- Writing letters, applying kohl to her eyes, brushing her hair, dancing with joyous abandon playing with her child. Depicted in a wealth of detail, sharply etched, sculpted with consummate artistry. The philosophy of the age dictated the enjoyment of the delights of ‘arth’ (material wealth) and ‘kama’ (sensual pleasures) while performing one’s ‘dharma’ (duty) as the accepted way of life for the ‘grihastha’ (householder).




Ujjain

Ujjain is one of the oldest Indian cities. It was governed by Ashoka and later, during the reign of the Guptas and the legendary Vikramaditya, was a great centre of learning, the poet Kalidasa being one of its illustrious sons. It is one of the venues of the mammoth Kumbh Mela held once in twelve years. Visit the Mahakali Temple, Jantar Mantar and the Gopal Mandir famous for its silver image of Lord Krishna.

Sanchi

Sanchi, was the seat of Buddhist learning and pilgrimage from 11th Century B.C to 3rd Century B.C. Buddhist art and architecture found sublime expression here. Sanchi abounds in stupas, temples, pillars and four magnificent gateways, profusely carved with images depicting the great events in the life of Gautama Buddha. His life is explained through symbols as was the tradition in the early years of Buddhism. The lotus represents Buddha’s birth, the tree his enlightenment, the wheel his first sermon and the Stupa his nirvana or salvation. The footprints and throne denote Buddha’s presence. The Ashoka Pillar, a column built in 3rd Century BC lies close to the southern gateway. Its brilliant polish is unblemished despite exposure to the elements over many centuries.

Mandu

Perched along the Vindhya ranges at an altitude of 2,000 ft, Mandu, with its natural defences, was originally the fort-capital of the Parmar rulers of Malwa. Towards the end of the 13th century, it came under the sway of the Sultans of Malwa . Its rulers built exquisite palaces like the Jahaz and Hindola Mahals, ornamental canals, baths and pavilions as graceful and refined as those times of peace and plenty. Each of Mandu’s structures is an architectural gem; some are outstanding like the massive Jami Masjid and Hoshang Shah’s Tomb. The glory of Mandu lives on, in its palaces and mosques, in legends and songs, chronicled for posterity.

Bhimbetka

Bhimbetka is surrounded by the northern fringe of the Vindhyan ranges. In this rocky terrain of dense forest and craggy cliffs there are over 600 rock shelters belonging to the Neolithic age with vivid paintings depicting the life of the prehistoric cave-dwellers. Executed mainly in red and white with an occasional use of green and yellow, the themes are from those bygone days depicting everyday events like hunting, dancing, playing music, horse and elephant riders, animals fighting, honey collection, decoration of bodies, masks in use and household scenes. Animals such as bison, tiger, lion, wild boar, elephant, antelope, dog, crocodiles etc., have been painted in some caves.