It was a cold morning of January when Gunjan messaged and asked if I wanted to join her on a short trip to some parts of Madhya Pradesh. I ...

MP Trip Feb 2021 - Day One and Two Gwalior

 It was a cold morning of January when Gunjan messaged and asked if I wanted to join her on a short trip to some parts of Madhya Pradesh. I had just returned from a winter trek in the Himalayas so I took couple of days and then said yes.

We discussed several options and she was also planning to attend a family function at one of the cities. So the rough plan was to one day each at Gwalior, Orchha and Jhansi. We also listed few monuments and made train reservations. It was obvious that I would be returning to Pune, and she would be staying back so we decided to travel together from Mumbai to Gwalior. Thanks to CoViD19, It had been more than a year since we had met last. A lot of catching up was pending.

Couple of days before departure she informed that IRCTC is not providing any bedding and food would be available at extra cost. I was taken aback as we would have to carry the bedding throughout the trip and that was going to add weight to the backpack. 

As decided earlier, I left from Pune on 14 Feb and reached Thane. The Shivneri reached Thane just in time to start for CSMT. So Ameya obliged by driving us all the way to CSMT. We had booked Second AC berths, so comparatively there was less rush in the bogey. We occupied our seats and started chatting which stopped only when somebody came or when we ate. Around 9 PM, we realized that we were the only ones who were blabbering. It was time to sleep. The only worry was getting up in time to get down at Gwalior where we would be reaching at 6 AM. Hence, with couple of alarms in place for 5 AM and 530 AM we slept.  I woke up couple of times in the night only to realize that the train was running ahead of schedule.

Around 615 we alighted at Gwalior. Like a typical Indian railway station, there were autowalas available ready to take us anywhere in the city. We weren’t so keen in travelling anywhere away from station so chose to share a plate of Poha and tea before going to the hotel which we had chosen. 

We had booked at Seth Vidhichand Dharamshala as our abode which is right outside Gwalior Station and is a 2 minute walk. When we reached the reception area, the man at reception was missing for about good 40 minutes. He arrived and we were allotted a tiny room. Tired we took ourselves to the room and slept for couple of hours.

During planning Gunjan had found a bike rental service in Gwalior which we had booked beforehand. Around 9 AM both of us were ready to explore Gwalior. Right outside the gate we found a small hotel which offered us yet another plate of Poha and samosa and eventually we got some coffee. By then the guy at bike rental service had already called us about bike pick up. So we immediately went to pick up the bike.

It was Honda Activa5G. The fuel was about half filled. The formalities were complete under 10 minutes and we were on our way. The first item on our list was Mitaoli - Chausath Yogini Temple which was 35 kms North of Gwalior. We topped the fuel to full tank and rode off. The highways were in good condition. Some 12 kms away I realized that we were in Uttar Pradesh, between Morena and Bhind District.

While growing up, the stories of Late Phoolan Devi and other dacoit filled columns of several newspapers from time to time. Somewhere back of the mind, the tension about getting into any unpleasant situation was present and I did my best to keep it under control. 

 We took a turn on internal road from Malanpur and the condition of road deteriorated with every kilo meter. Best thing was the cell phone coverage was very good throughout the journey. Soon we reached Mitaoli village and a quick hike of 5 minutes we were on the top of the hill which has a small plateau. The Chausath Yogini temple is dedicated to 64 yoginis and the goddess Devi. There is a shrine in the center which houses a big Shivlinga. The temple was constructed in 11th century to provide education of Astrology and mathematics based on sun transitions. It is believed that the current structure of Indian Parliament House is based on this temple. There are 65 chambers which probably housed images of different “Yoginis” however now there are just some with Shivling and few are empty. We spent some good one hour here.

The second stop was Gadhi Padhavli which was about 5 kms from Mitaoli. I hadn’t heard much about it and it looked very intriguing from the parking lot. We entered and were just walking through the walkway; there were idols on both sides. I noticed some Gajalakshmi, Ganesha and few erotic ones.

The Nandi Mandapa is at a height and is accessible through a staircase. There were two lions on each side of the staircase. I didn’t know what was to unfold. We climbed the staircase in no time and the complete picture unfolded… I was spellbound, stunned. I have been to many archaeological sites but the Nandi Mandapa here is something way beyond. Absolutely beautiful! There are 5 sections to the ceiling and each one of them has numerous mythological figures. I am unsure and grateful for that most of them are intact while the entire Shiva Temple is destroyed.  There are few erotic ones as well and then the Yaksha. Different panels telling stories from Puranas and other ancient literature like Bhagawat et all. There was a fellow who showed us the intricacies from the carvings. We paid him 100 rs and went to the fortification on the side. 

The Nandi Mandapa looks beautiful while the empty space of Shiva temple will ache your heart. We came down clicked few beautiful pictures and moved to the third item on our list: Bateshwar group of Temple.

We all should thank ASI Bhopal region's Superintend Archaeologist K.K. Muhammed who restored the site with help of Dacoit Nirbhar Singh Gujjar and his gang.  

Bateshwar will make your brain freeze with its grandeur. There are about 100 temples restored by ASI from mounts of ruins just like a jigsaw puzzle. In one of the interviews that I had watched Shri K. K. Muhammed had mentioned the temples were based on principles of architecture in Sanskrit architectural texts.  I don’t remember the names of the texts.

Bateshwar still has a long way to go when it comes to restoration and I am glad that ASI is relentlessly working on it since 2005. Can’t thank them enough! Please visit Kevin Standage’s blog for photos pre and post restoration.  

We clicked and clicked. Thankfully it was Monday so there were almost no tourists.  We had hardly spoken to each other since we arrived here. Most of the words said were,”get out of my frame.” No number of photos is going to bring any justice to this site.

When I checked the time, we had already spent over an hour here and it had felt like a split second. We were now hungry hence took a quick snacks break in the seating area bang opposite The Vishnu Temple which we chose to skip since we also had to return to Gwalior in day light because first the road conditions and secondly being in a remote area in dark didn’t sound like a safe idea.  Hence we started our returning ride to Gwalior around 330.

On our way back Gunjan was continuously checking the closing times various other destinations in the city. The Surya Mandir – Sun temple aka Birla Temple was closing down at 5, the Tansen Maqbara too at same time, Rani Lakshmibai Samadhi as well. Also that Google wasn’t helpful much because it kept showing temporarily closed on map and different times for closing when we searched. All because of CoViD19!

We took a chance and went to Gwalior Fort. The parking lot was yet filled with many bikes and cars.  Gunjan checked that there was a sound and light show in Hindi at 630. While buying tickets for the show we had a word with the elderly man at the ticket counter. He guided us about the fort and other tickets and also about other destinations on our list. He was curious about where we had come from etc. It was a good chat. 

We hurriedly made our way to Sas Bahu (Sahasrabahu) Temple but the security guard literally shooed us away since we didn’t have ticket. So we had to return to galleria to wait until it was time for Sound and Light Show. The entire city of Gwalior was getting lit by lights and looked very beautiful.

Soon it was time for Sound and Light Show and we were engrossed in the history of Gwalior fort and City. It was not so pleasant but the bike rental guy called us and asked when we were returning the bike and I didn’t know when. I requested him for some more time to call back. We had booked for only one day thinking we would be done. It was clear that Gwalior needed more time. We were to check out of the hotel next day morning as well. This called for a long discussion over permutation and combinations of possibilities.

After leaving from the fort, we made our way back to the hotel. Dumped our backpack in the room and freshened up.

The receptionist told us we could leave our luggage in the cloak room and go around the town and not have to pay for entire room. The autorikshaw drivers seemed uninterested in taking us on a fixed rate to explore other parts of the city for most part of the day. Apart from that main attractions at Gwalior fort still remained unvisited. After accounting for many things, we called the bike rental guy and requested if we could use the bike for another day. He agreed readily just that asked for payment upright which worked perfectly for us.

All set for next day, we went for dinner. The dinner was Masala dosa followed by a good cup of coffee at Indian Coffee House opposite to our hotel. It is a typical south Indian restaurant. Gunjan decided she didn’t want coffee but the masala milk. And the same restaurant where we had breakfast was serving it in the Kulhad. Happy with day one we retired to our room around 930.

As expected Gunjan and I chattered some more and finally slept off around 130.





Day Two:

The day began pretty early for us at 530. Both of us were ready to leave at 715. The restaurant where we had breakfast on the day prior hadn’t opened yet, so we went back to the station entrance and had Poha and coffee. It had started drizzling for no reason. I was worried because of the cold that it brings and additionally riding in rain on an unfamiliar vehicle seemed rather gruesome.

We started our ride to Gwalior fort again. The city roads were all wet and obviously it reduced the speed. After reaching Gwalior fort and we took our first stop at the Jain caves near Urwai gate.

Then at Hathi Pol took our entry ticket for Man Mandir palace which also was valid at Sas Bahu Temple and Teli Ka Mandir. We made our way first to Sas Bahu Temple, because I wanted good pictures in perfect day light. We spent some half an hour here and then headed back to Man Mandir palace.

I guess most part of the Palace is closed for visitors, we didn’t take guide here. The staircases and the hallways and the rooms were absolute maze. It is a three storied structure and if you’re bad with navigation and signs you should take a guide.  After another half an hour we came out of the Maze.

Some part of Gwalior fort is under Madhya Pradesh State Archaeology and there is separate ticket for that. We were not sure if we wanted to go. After reading the list of monuments, we thought we should explore it. There is Jauhar Kund, Bhimsen Rana ki Chhatri, Vikram Mahal and Karna Mahal. We didn’t spent much time here and came out quickly.

It was time for brunch, so we went to MPTDC restaurant. One last and important one on list was Teli Ka Mandir before we would leave the fort. Thankfully we could ride to the Teli ka Mandir. The temple is a tall structure and dates back 8th or 9th century. There are no exact records as to who built it. The carvings are yet again fascinating. We walked around the temple, clicked pictures and left.

We checked Google and Jai Vilas Palace was close by. The palace was built in 1874, a part of which is now a museum. Apart from enormous range of artifacts, The Durbar hall is a glamorous royal place which tells us about the aristocratic lives of Scindias of Gwalior. The crystal fountain and the chandeliers made the visit worth the ticket. 

Our next destination was Rani Lakshmibai Samadhi. I would have never forgiven myself if we would have skipped it. Having grown up listening to valor stories of this queen this was a must visit place. However, upon visit I felt sad because I saw many couples seating and publicly displaying affection and courtship. Elderly people seating there because they had nowhere to go probably. It had become just another place of pastime activities for people.

We rode to the Sun Temple which is a replica of Konark Sun temple and is funded by Birla Family. It was almost 3PM now and Jhansi and Orchha looked far away! Somehow made a tour of Sun Temple and rushed off to hand over the bike back to the guy. Then took an auto to the Station and took our luggage. The bus station is another five minute walk from the Hotel.

The first bus we got in was a private bus which was going somewhere else and they were planning to make us change the bus at Datia. We were not convinced with the idea. Then Gunjan searched for more buses and then we found a government serviced bus which would drop us at Jhansi Bus Station. It was leaving at 6PM, which meant we would be reaching Jhansi around 9 PM and then Orchha looked far away from there. I felt I hadn’t dressed appropriately with a sleeveless one piece or tunic. Then we also realized that throughout the day there hadn’t been a single incident of eve teasing and I wasn’t made to feel uncomfortable in spite of wearing a sleeveless tunic.