A Day In Aurangabad : Bibi Ka Maqbara

With a few days off, and an itch to road trip in the rains, we decided on Aurangabad followed by Lonar. This is one stretch we hadn’t been to, and the time at hand perfectly enabled us to quickly freeze the plans and leave. Aurangabad is roughly 340 km from Mumbai (240 from Pune) and … Read more A Day In Aurangabad : Bibi Ka Maqbara

Viratnagar, Rajasthan : Steeped In History

During our grand Rajasthan road trip last year, we dropped by Viratnagar, a nondescript little town, which is so steeped in history that it deserves a special trip of its own. And while we are yet to make that trip, I am collecting my thoughts on this once glorious city, also known as Bairat. Bairat’s … Read more Viratnagar, Rajasthan : Steeped In History

Siliserh : Off The Beaten Track

In the scenic region of Alwar, tucked away next to the magnificent Sariska National Park, is Lake Siliserh. Since it’s off the main route, many would miss it. There isn’t much here but a beautiful lake surrounded by the forested Aravalli Hills. But perhaps, that itself is everything. The only place to stay here is … Read more Siliserh : Off The Beaten Track

Lonar : The Ancient Town

We completed our Lonar trip with a day spent in the town, exploring the Daitya Sudan Temple. The earlier two posts, about the Lonar Crater and the Lonar Crater Temples are also worth looking at. This ancient village/town has more to it than these two areas, and in our limited time, we tried to explore it.

Lonar is a tiny village/town in Maharashtra where, about 50,000 years ago, a giant meteor crashed into earth, creating a large circular lake of 1.4 km diameter, which has saline water. In the circumference of the lake are 10 ancient temples, perhaps from the 9th Century AD.

The Lonar MTDC Resort is the place to stay, although an old PWD Guesthouse is also available on prior notice. We recommened MTDC anytime, as here it was neat, clean and rather unoccupied.

The town has an ancient temple called ‘Daitya Sudan Mandir’. Legend has it, Lord Vishnu had killed a Daitya, Lavanasur, here. Next to the temple is a Bramha – Vishnu – Mahesh temple. The idol of Mahesh is missing and has been replaced by an idol of Garuda.

The temple of Daitya Sudan is considered a fine example of the Hemadpanthi style of architecture. The temple has three niches, each dedicated to Chamunda, Surya and Narasimha. Each niche feels like a complete temple in itself. The walls and ceilings of the temple are elaborately carved with various figurines depicting various scenes from the scriptures, scenes from everyday life and stories. Try and keep a day only for this temple.

Apart from the temple, we came across a fascinating ancient ‘step well’ from the times of the Chalukya Dynasty. Locally called the ‘Limbi Barav’, the well is in a state of dis-repair, but fenced by the Archaeological Society Of India. On each of the four walls is a niche for idols which are now missing. On the east side is a balconied pavilion. There are Saptamatrikas carved on the space inside the balcony, suggesting there must have been an idol of a goddess. These seven ‘mothers’ can be “Brahmani, Vaishnavi, Maheshvari, Indrani, Kaumari, Varahi, Chamunda and Narasimhi.”

 

PWD Guesthouse Lonar
The old Public Works Department Guesthouse is located favourably overlooking the Lonar Lake.

Read moreLonar : The Ancient Town

Temples Of The Lonar Crater

Lonar Temples

Almost slipping down the steep path to the lake, we saw the first of the 10 temples inside the Lonar Crater. The dense monsoon vegetation gave way to glimpses of a gorgeous temple made of stone. We reached closer to take pictures. It’s a Shiva Temple, and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is working on its restoration. These temples were built during the Chalukya Dynasty’s rule, around the 8th/9th Century AD. What did the people think of the brackish lake waters? What did they do with it? Some say it has healing powers.

I tried to keep a track of the temples with the photographs, but failed, as time erased some memories. Too much information to keep track of! But here are my text notes:

1st temple in the forest trek : Shiv Temple : 9th Century by Chalukya Dynasty
2nd temple : Rama Temple : Chalukya Dynasty in the 9th Century AD
3rd Temple was full of bats. It was a Shiva Temple also 9th Century additions by the Yadavkalin Dynasty.
4th Temple : Shiv Temple 16 positions are shown carved in rock here.
5th : Padmavati Temple : It has regular Puja happening here. The goddess inside is Swambhu.
6th Temple : Shiv temple again.
7th Temple : Shiv Temple without the Shiv Lingam
8th : Shiv Temple
9th : Daitya Guru Shukra Acharya : He found Sanjeevini in Lonar Crater and would treat Daityas. This temple was his vaidyashala.
10th : Kumareshwar Temple also by Chalukya Dynasty. This is also a Shiv Temple.

The last temple on top is Gaumukh Temple made by Hoysala Kings. Later additions were made by Nana Saheb Peshwa and Ahilyabai Holkar.

Our visit to Lonar is posted here in an earlier article.

Shiva Temple at Lonar
Shiva Temple at Lonar

Read moreTemples Of The Lonar Crater

Lonar Crater : Born Out Of Alien Impact

We were in Aurangabad, and nothing much happening on the work front which required us to turn back, were tempted to visit Lonar. About 60,000 years ago (they say around the Pleistocene Epoch), a meteor is supposed to have struck this place in Buldana district of Maharashtra, created a massive crater about 6.7km in circumference and 1.2km in diameter. The impact must have created huge tremors, fires, whatnot, but it has also left a very unique lake here. Lonar crater is the only known hyper velocity impact crater in basaltic rock anywhere on earth. In 2007 biological nitrogen fixation was discovered in this lake.

The drive from Aurangabad to Lonar takes about 4 hours at a normal pace. The roads are not too good. But the journey is beautiful with agricultural fields on both sides, and apart from Jalna, not much ugly industrial landscapes.

We stayed at the MTDC Lonar (there aren’t too many options here), and were pleasantly surprised. They cooked to our tastes, and rooms were fairly good. We were also lucky to get a good guide Ramesh. We decided to go for a trek of the entire crater the next morning.

The climb down is kind of steep, but not too stressful. The walk around the Lonar crater is around 7km, starting with a moderately steep descent and then through a trail in the thick forest. Through the trail we came across a total of 10 ancient temples around the lake.

The lake waters are a rich green due to some kind of algae. The outer circumference waters have a neutral pH of 7 and the inner waters are a high alkaline or around pH11. We had read the lake forest has chinkaras and gazelles, but only found traces of wild boar, a couple of hyenas, grey langoors, fruit bats, grey hornbills, grey tits, Indian koels, alexandrine parakeets, oriental magpie robins, Indian robin, black winged stilts, red wattled lapwings, collared doves, peafowl, and heard grey fantails, and perhaps a few other birds I am missing out. We had visited in August, so everything was fresh and green, and the weather cool and breezy.

So this is Part One of our Lonar visit, which covers the lake. Part Two will cover the temples around the lake and Part Three, the other temples in the city.

Lonar
The drive to Lonar from Aurangabad is beautiful and we fell in love with this gorgeous evening light.
Lonar Crater
Our first glimpse of the lake was in the dark, but with just enough light to get a shot.

Read moreLonar Crater : Born Out Of Alien Impact

The Beautiful Wilderness Of Wayanad

Often, when you are reaching the tipping point at work, all that you want to do is to go somewhere you can relax and do nothing. Our recent stay at Wayanad was one such ‘do nothing’ type trips.

After a few months of stressful long hours of work, we decided to take off and wanted to be amidst dense greenery. Wayanad was decided upon and we selected Grass Roots for the stay. They have extremely comfortable camps near huge tea gardens, and it all was too inviting to search further.

We drove to Wayanad from Bangalore and took a route driving past the Kabini Reservoir and through the Bandipur forest road. The drive itself is gorgeous, with enough stopovers for great food (the Kamat’s Lokaruchi on Mysore Highway is great for breakfast). If you avoid a weekend, you can avoid the heavy traffic on this road. The journey next to the Kabini Reservoir and through the forest is beautiful with enough sightings possible in the forest road. We spotted a Crested Serpent Eagle (Spilornis cheela), Common Hawk Cuckoo (Hierococcyx varius), Bonnet Macaques (Macaca radiata), Malabar giant squirrels, (Ratufa indica) amongst many other birds and small mammals. People have spotted tigers, leopards and elephants here.

Read moreThe Beautiful Wilderness Of Wayanad

Kumbhalgarh : A World Heritage Fort

The Aravalli Hills of Rajasthan hold many a treasure, and Kumbhalgarh Fort is one such prominent gem. Built during the 15th Century by Rana Kumbha, it is the birthplace of Maharana Pratap Singh. It is now a World Heritage Site. It also has an over 32 km long wall, making it perhaps the world’s second longest wall (after the Great Wall Of China).

During one of our Rajasthan road trips we had stopped by Kumbhalgarh to have a quick look and meet a friend. We wanted to try the Walk The Wall Challenge but couldn’t because of lack of time. The fort is surrounded by the Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary. With wild life including wolfs, leopards, sloth bears, hyenas, jackals, jungle cats, sambhars, nilgais, chausinghas (the four horned antelope), chinkaras and hares, we really wanted to spend more time here, but perhaps on the next trip.

Built at an altitute of 1100 metres above sea level, Kumbhalgarh Fort is very pleasant and breezy at the top. It’s some 82 km from Udaipur. Like most of Rajasthan, the best time to visit is winters, staring around late October till about March. The Rajasthan Tourism Department runs an Annual Kumbhalgarh Festival in the month of March. A search will reveal plenty of stay options.

 

Kumbhalgarh Fort
There is centuries of history at this place and one can only sit and wonder what all must have transpired here.

Read moreKumbhalgarh : A World Heritage Fort

Walking Through London

London! Perhaps our favourite city. We had the opportunity to be in this immensely inspiring city sometime last year, and these are just some photos from the trip. We didn’t have the time to travel around though.

We stayed at Cartwright Gardens, in a studio apartment booked by Studios2let. It was close to our place of work, plus in the middle of everything, and we had a great time. The room was tiny, but thats normal in an expensive city like London. The only unfortunate thing was their check-in time being 2pm. Flights from India land early morning London time, and you just have to figure out something to do until you get your room.

 

The lovely Cartwright Gardens in London
The lovely Cartwright Gardens in London
DSCF1685
It was a cold grey January, but we loved walking the streets around Cartwright Gardens.

Read moreWalking Through London

Nashala : A Tiny Village In The Mountains of Himachal Pradesh

There are many, many quaint villages in the Himalayas, and how we wish we could visit as many of them as possible before they get commercially exploited and lose their charm and innocence.

Nashala is one such quaint Himalayan village. Towards the right of Naggar Haveli, a winding 5km road around the hills, and through pine forests lies this gorgeous village, where most of the homes are still traditional in architecture. This sleepy agrarian village was the perfect spot for us to spend a day hanging around, photographing. Stay was in Manali, and all meals at Naggar Castle. Katrain could also be a good place to stay with delicious home cooked meals in your own tree house!

dhaba
Dhaba on the way to Manali on the Chandigarh – Manali Highway.
Manali Highway Road Construction
The road to Manali is terrible, with construction everywhere. So bad, that I now fear driving to Manali. It was like this earlier last year, and so about 4 years ago.

Read moreNashala : A Tiny Village In The Mountains of Himachal Pradesh

Road Trip Through Rajasthan : 6400 km

Great road trips are made of these. Delicious road side food, beautiful country side roads and pleasant surprises through out. And in Rajasthan, thankfully, we had plenty of all that during our long work-related stay. We drove from Mumbai and went to Udaipur, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Sawai Madhopur, Alwar, Sariska, Mount Abu, Delhi, Sili Serh, and many of these places many times. We wanted to come back via Madhya Pradesh so went from Mount Abu to Chittorgarh and then via Mandsaur and Ratlam to Mumbai.

We learnt that the Milk Cake of Alwar is the best in the Universe. We learnt that Mount Abu is a fantastic place to re-visit and that the Pyaz Ki Kachori with Jalebi and Lassi is the best breakfast ever. We learnt that the Poha in Madhya Pradesh is divine. We learnt about ancient Buddhist Stupa near Virat Nagar, Rajasthan this town once being the capital of the Mahajanapada Kingdom.

– Rajasthan is awesome to drive in, and most roads are in good condition, the drives are scenic and beautiful.
– The drive from Jaipur to Delhi is terrible with lots of traffic, trucks and delays. Unless you start like at 5 am. Also, avoid this route after dark, it’s not very safe. There have been instances of robbing.
– NH8 from Mumbai to Udaipur is a superb well built road, but the stretch in Gujarat is boring and full of factories and trucks on either side. On our way back, we came via Madhya Pradesh.
– Madhya Pradesh roads generally were in bad condition and too much traffic and many small towns on the way.
– Highway food is generally decent throughout.
– The roads became better when we entered Maharashtra, but full of speed breakers around Nashik. Be careful.
– It becomes difficult to find good food on the highways once you enter Maharashtra.

We learnt we should do this more often and take notes 🙂

Highway Dhaba, Rajasthan
This dhaba between Udaipur and jaipur had great food to offer, and a lovely walk behind it, to a wetland body full of birds.
Riverside, Rajasthan.
A walk behind the dhaba revealed this river side.
Acacia nilotica
And next to the river, this awesome walk, with Kikar (Acacia nilotica) Trees in full yellow bloom.

Read moreRoad Trip Through Rajasthan : 6400 km

Sambhar Lake And Salt Pans: Birding Heaven

During a train journey from Jaipur to Jodhpur, we were pleasantly surprised to see vast vistas of shallow salt plains with what looked like Flamingos in the far distance. A quick check on the route revealed we were crossing the Sambhar Lake. Located some 90km South West of Jaipur, it’s India’s largest inland salt lake. … Read more Sambhar Lake And Salt Pans: Birding Heaven