Experiential Heritage Trail in Madhya Pradesh - Living It to the Fullest

May 05, 2020

Guest Blog

Experiential travel can be easily translated to living life to the fullest, tasting all the flavours a destination has to offer. I recently embarked on a Culture & Heritage Trail with Times Passion Trails in the heart of our country - Madhya Pradesh. Times Passion Trails had promised to make us live the destination passionately, and I was overwhelmed with everything they had to offer on this hand crafted 6 day trail, centred around culture and heritage of our country.




Destinations:

 

The destinations covered significant UNESCO World Heritage Sites, each one boasting of unique importance from our historic times. The cultural diversity I got to see within a small range in Madhya Pradesh was absolutely stunning. It felt like walking through different centuries in 6 days of visit to Hindu & Jain temples in Khajuraho, Buddhist Stupas in Sanchi, Taj Ul Masajid in Bhopal, pre historic caves at Bhimbetka, shrines of Hindu gods in Udayagiri caves, the royal palaces & chhatris in Orchha, Jain temples & underground palaces in Chanderi and lunch with the current royal family of Bundelkhand.

 

Bhimbetka caves - accidentally discovered shelter rocks having early traces of human life. The caves discovered in the year 1957, are calculated to be at least 100,000 years old by the archaeologists. The paintings of animals on the rocks depict the the evolution of human life from the ancient man starting to observe animals, using them for his routine life, and then using them for wars. These caves left me with various imaginations of human life in the stone age.



 

Taj Ul Masajid - the largest mosque in India, has an interesting story of how it took more than a century for its completion. Its construction had begun in 1860s and completed only recently in 1985. The mosque is also an educational institute for Islam (madrasa). I felt extremely proud of my country to have accepted so many different ways of living, religions and cultures.


Udaygiri Caves - Dated back to 4th century, these caves were believed to be ancient centre of astronomy, probably because of its then location over tropic of cancer. The caves have sculptures and inscriptions of Vaishnavism, Shaivism & Shaktism depicting the remarkable tolerance of polytheism. The caves also narrate the Hindu thought of avatars, when Lord Vishnu takes different forms to descend to earth to restore dharma and save Goddess Earth.


Sanchi Stupa - The Buddhist Stupa of 3rd century is a great display of Indian Architecture. Ashoka had built the Stupa in Sanchi to preserve the relics of Lord Buddha. The ornamental gateways with intricate carvings and narrative sculptures were added later on. I felt peace and lot of positivity at one of the best maintained monuments in India.


Chanderi - A historical place important for Jain temples, this town has preserved the remains of ancient sandstone carvings in a museum. Chanderi fort tells us the stories of the many battles fought here as it was an important place on the ancient trading routes. I particularly loved the underground palace discovered by archaeologists in this town, which could have been used as a shelter during wars.


 

Orchha - The only place in India where Lord Rama is worshipped as King. The picturesque town located on the banks of river Betwa has unique temples, palaces and cenotaphs in the princely state of Bundelkhand region. These buildings of Hindu & Mughal architectures took me back in to the royal life of Bundelas.


Khajuraho - Khajuraho group of temples, famous for its intricate erotic decorations are classic masterpieces of ancient Indian art. The temples actually depict all the stages of human life important for the progression of soul, which is generally overlooked by most. Khajuraho is one of the four holy sites linked to Lord Shiva, the spiritual master.

 

Experience Architect:

 

Mr. KK Muhammed, a regional director of ASI had accompanied us on the historic trail. He has recently won the Padma Shri award for his outstanding work. Extremely humble with his personality, he made all the historic monuments our outdoor classrooms. It was a privilege to be guided by such a knowledgeable personality of our times.

 

Additionally, we had the privilege of learning the history of by Taj Ul Masajid by Jamal Ayub, the editor of Times of India, Bhopal. He shared in-depth information about past, present and future of the entire area around the mosque.

 

Heritage walk in Chanderi was lead by Muzzafar Ahmed (Kalle Bhai), 3rd generation historian of that region who has passionately learnt the history of the town after dropping out from school due to lack of funds to support his education. He learnt to read different scripts and is fluent with various national & international languages.

 A local expert from Khajuraho, Anurag Shukla explained to us the importance of Khajuraho temples beyond its erotic sculptures. The passion with which he shares his knowledge about Hindu temples in that region and mythology around it, was something to really look forward to.

 

All these experts made our visits to the monuments lively and enriching with their expertise on these subjects.

Stays:

 

After spending entire days in the outdoors learning about the heritage of the state, we got to indulge more into the culture of Madhya Pradesh with warm welcome to the tastefully done heritage stays. Those little moments of feeling like living in the palaces of the royal times added to our experiential journey in the heart of India.

 

Food:

 

No travel is complete without savouring the local delicacies, and what better than you not having to lookout for the best taste after an engrossing day. Apart from the heritage stays having to offer the best from their menus, Times Passion Trails had curated a palace style dinner with a 7-course meal prepared by celebrity chefs.

 

We also had the privilege of a special Bundelkhand Lunch with the royal family of Maharaja of Orchha.

 

Culture:

 

We received a warm welcome by the MD of Madhya Pradesh tourism board, who passionately talked about the futuristic tourism plans for the state and an energetic performance by India’s only Sanskrit rock band.

 

We had an eventful last evening listening to Sufi music from our country’s renowned coke studio artist Dhruv Sangari. I couldn’t have thought of any better way to end the trail than a private coke studio night in a room filled up with immense energy, positive vibes and passionate travellers.

 

Company Matters:

 

Journeys are fun only when you travel with like-minded people. Times “Passion” Trails gave me the joy of spending some beautiful moments with really “passionate” travellers. Cheers to our wonderful group.

 

Now that’s what I call Experiential Journeys! At the end of the trip, I felt extremely content as I had the  best of the experiences I could have ever imagined in these destinations of Madhya Pradesh. I can’t wait to hop onto another interesting trail with Times Passion Trails.