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Enigmatic India

This blog captures the life experiences of the Enigmatic India team in the beautiful and enigmatic country of India.We capture our experiences through our writings, photos and products that depict the very essence and fabric of India.Through this platform, we invite you to join us in our journey as we explore.
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Saturday, May 06, 2017

Trip to Mandu(Mandavgad), Madhya Pradesh...Central group of monuments

Jahaz Mahal
Our friends in MP Tourism had been urging us to visit Mandu since a long time, however the flight timings and a lack of conviction, delayed this for a long time. With Indigo Airlines starting a direct flight between Hyderabad and Indore(at a convenient timing), we decided to explore this place known for the love story of Prince Baz Bahadur and Rani Roopmati. Mandu probably gets its name from the Prakrit word Mandapa Durga(citation Wikipedia)was ruled by the Parmar of Malwa till about 13th Century and from 1305 onwards the Sultans of Malwa ruled this place.

We flew into Indore and after a short drive of approx 100 Kms checked into Malwa Resort of MP Tourism, which is one of the few resorts available here.

The day started with a trip to the central group of monuments which is encompassed within a 45 kms walled city and it has 12 darwazas(Gates) and the main gate is the Delhi Darwaza. We started our journey with

 1. Jahaz Mahal:  as the name suggests it is a boat shaped two storied palace(around 120 mts), built by Ghias-ud-din Khilji for his harem. The Mahal overlooks two artificial water tanks i.e. Kapur Talao(Camphor) and the Munj Talao. One can notice the magnificence of Afghan architecture and the palace is lined with beautiful balconies, pavilions and terraces.
view from Jahaz Mahal of the Kapur Talao

2. Hindola Mahal: Our next stop was Hindola Mahal and the architecture gives it the name of "Swinging Palace".  The place has beautifully moulded column and magnificent trellis work in sandstone.

Hindola Mahal
 Once inside one can see the numerous arches that dot this place and if you wait for the right timing you can capture a nice picture of sunrays through the arches.
Arches within Hindola Mahal
3. Champa Baoli: Close to Hindola Mahal are a series of structures and the notable one is Champa Baoli, which has a network of water channels to supply both hot and cold water.
Champa Baoli
After this we  moved out of this complex and went to explore other structures and the first one being:

1. Hoshang Shah's Tomb: It is the mausoleum of Hoshang Shah and it is is supposed to be the first marble edifice in India. Afghan architecture at its best with intricate marble lattice work, towers and courts. It seems to have provided inspiration for the building of the Taj Mahal. Once inside you will see a few tombs and interestingly for birdwatchers one can be lucky to see a family of spotted owlets.
Hoshang Shah Tomb
2. Jami Masjid: Our next stop was the massive Jami Masjid which seems to have been inspired by the great mosque at Damascus. Huge & tall arches, pillars, domes are the keystone of this structure.

Jami Masjid Mandu

Jami Masjid view from Victory Tower
3. Ashrafi Mahal: As the name suggest "Ashrafi is gold" hence "palace of gold coins" and it was built by Mahmud Shah Khilji, successor of Hohsang Shah, It was conceived as an academic institution for young boys. Today not much of it remains however in the north-eastern corner there is a seven storey tower constructed by Mahmud Khilji to commemorate his victory over Rana of Mewar, hence its also known as Victory Tower.

Tower of Victory
With this our first day of visiting the central group of monuments ended and the whole visit was enthralling.
In our next blog we will take you through our experience on the Rewa Kund group of monuments and other locations in Mandu.

(contributed by Sandip Mishra, photo copyrights with EnigmaticIndia team)

Monday, March 13, 2017

"People Around Us" - Bikram Swain

Bikram Swain
Bikram 2 Bollywood
Car Washer to Tiger Shroff’s personal trainer

“My father doesn’t understand yet what I am doing here in Bollywood. Once or twice I have shown my selfies with Bollywood stars. But he said, "you don’t have a click with Sachin Tendulkar"? Two months back,  I got chance to take a click with great cricketer Sachin Tendulkar in Mehboob Studio, Mumbai. I sent that photograph to my father & he was so happy that I can’t even tell you. Now only he accepts…yes my son is doing something in Mumbai”: Bikram Swain.

Bikram & Sachin
Bikram’s life is not less than a Bollywood story. Being from a very poor family one day he shifted from Odisha to Surat to get some work as his maternal aunt was already there. He learnt embroidery work with a hope to earn more money. There he was earning Rs. 1300 per month. He used to keep half of that for himself and send the other half to his family. One day, someone suggested him that he should go to Mumbai. He came to the city with no money and started hunting for a job. This was in 2009. He worked with a shop for spakes frames colouring in South Mumbai and on Sundays & other holidays worked as a cleaner, used to wash cars to earn a living. While working as a car cleaner he became friend with a driver. He used to travel to Juhu every Sunday since it used to be his weekly off. When he went to Juhu beach, he saw some kids there doing gymnastics. He saw them and began practising with them. This became a routine for Bikram  on Sundays & on festival days. He got very good at it and was a fast learner.

Bikram & Tiger Shroff
“On one such day, "Tiger Shroff" spotted me. He was preparing for his debut film then. Even I didn’t have idea that he is the son of great bollywood star Jackie Shroff. When he saw me, he came and practised with me. After few such sessions, he offered me a job as his trainer. Back then, I didn’t know the language and I could hardly communicate with him. But Tiger understood me. He asked me to shift from South Mumbai to Andheri. He also bought me a phone and a sim card. Through that, we used to communicate. Since I didn’t know the language, he only used to message me the time at which we had to meet. Slowly, I learnt the language and now I can converse. Then, Tiger taught me how to browse videos on youtube, through which I learnt many new things.” Bikram.

Bikram is the first boy from his village Antarigam (Gunjam- Odisha) to have travelled abroad. His family & friends are so proud of him now. He has purchased some land in his village & built a home also. He helped his younger brother to be an MBA. His  village is affected by Naxalites and it is very under developed. In fact, Antarigam got electricity few years back only. Now Bikram is helping his village to be a developed one.   

“I also had a flair for dance and because of my flexibility, I got a good hang of it. I worked on that skill too and soon became very good at it. When I met Sooraj Pancholi via Tiger, he suggested that I should train him to dance. This began the next phase of my career. I now train Sooraj, Sayesha Sehgal (Dilip Kumar's niece) and Athiya Shetty. However, for me, Tiger is God. I travel the world with Tiger. I work with Tiger on all his dance numbers. But when Tiger is shooting, I am free. Hence, Tiger suggested that I get my Assistant Choreographer's card done so that I can assist Ahmed sir. I did it and went on to work with him on "Kick", "Phantom", "Hero", "All is Well among other movies.” Bikram 

(In conversation with "Saumya Parida")

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Trip to Gir National Park, Gujarat : Majestic Asiatic Lions

Two Lions(the "Brothers" perhaps")
Gujarat has been beckoning us since a long time and the urge to see the Asiatic Lion was very high. However for many years, our love to watch the Royal Bengal Tiger took precedence and we spent multiple visits to the Tiger Sanctuaries.  Peak summer (mid may) is when we decided to visit Sasan Gir and while we were apprehensive of the heat wave sweeping Gujarat then, we were resolute to make this happen. Landed in Ahmedabad and after a day trip of sight seeing in Ahmedabad we moved on to Somnath Temple and finally landed up in Club Mahindra Sasan Gir.

Needless to state we have made the safari bookings online through Http://www.girlion.in. With these online bookings being enabled in most wildlife sanctuaries life is much easier to plan. Spoke to couple of local guys and got the vehicle organised through them as the ones being provided through Club Mahindra was too expensive.

As always the first trip is always the one full of anxiety. So early morning we got ready and went to Singh Sadan at the entry of the park gate where the permits are given, jeeps allocated and guides assigned(not much different from other parks). Well what was different was what our guide Prashant(name changed) shared with us. After he boarded the gypsy with us he went about explaining the park, lay of the land, routes(which are named 1,2,3,4 etc), mammals, birds. Our trip began and we were quite excited to be here finally. 

Almost 90 minutes went by and the jungle was by and large very quite with the only sighting of a few spotted deer and resident birds. Then we suddenly saw a man in bike riding very fast and he took off the road and into the side tracks. Our gypsy driver started racing along with him. Puzzled, we  didn't know what was happening and asked the guide. Then the un-reveal happened - he said there are "Trackers" in the forest(appointed by the govt.) and if you pay them they will lead to the lion or lion pride. Really was our question? The guide went on to add that for more money the tracker and forest officials would even steer the lion towards your vehicle. Well we didn't believe these and true to ourselves we went about exploring the jungle further and returned home without sighting any lion. Some tourists from the resort returned with smiling faces and yes they had spotted a lion in the same route we were. Having spent enough time in jungles in the last ten years we were happy to leave things to the nature to unfold itself.

Crocodiles at Kamleshwar Lake
Our afternoon safari began and now we had a new driver and guide. Both were quite enthusiastic and understood that we would be interested in seeing birds too. Took us to the Kamleshwar lake where we did see crocodiles in the lake bed, lot of Asian paradise flycatcher, Martins and swallows, other resident birds. 


As the journey continued, we spotted a village and not surprising as most national parks have some settlements still within them and these belonged to the "Maldharis" who are nomadic herders  moving around with their livestock. Some distance from this place we saw a large population of Buffaloes and a man in traditional Maldari dress bathing them. What a sight...the Buffaloes were enjoying the cool water and the man while bathing them was giving them a body scrub too. Our guide gestured me to follow him and said this is a good place for birding as there was water and it attracted a lot of birds - well why not we sighted Flycatchers, Shikra, Tickel's blue flycatcher, Babblers and Oriental White-eye. 
Maldhari and livestock ---cool bath
As we continued our journey we did hear the roar of a lion in some distance and our guide and driver started locating the source and we halted at one spot, with one more gypsy there. Lo and behold we saw the majestic lion walking towards us from the undergrowth. Well the excitement was palpable and our cameras went on click click click. However we noticed something was wrong as the lion kept looking towards the undergrowth. What unfold was shocking - a guy in khakhi uniform with a long stick was gesturing and making sounds at the lion. Our guide explained it was one of the trackers and the lions have got used to this. Quite disappointing!!!

We continued and within the next ten minutes we saw a few vehicles parked some distance ahead. Our jeep driver accelerated and said "saheb juroor dono bhai milgaye hain" and why not two majestic males were siting below a tree and the view was majestic. Well you can guess the two were surrounded by six trackers...Our respect for the wildlife park started diminishing quickly and our guide noticed it. He said if the govt didn't resort to this then the tourist flow would decline. After some more birding we returned to Club Mahindra. 

Still there was some expectation to see a pride of lions and next day last trip turned out lucky. A few minutes into our safari we encountered the most visible pride of 10 lioness and cubs walking beside our track. A few gypsies(vehicles) were there and we watched them to our hearts content.Well this is the pride that is sighted the most and those who follow environment/cricket news might have seen the controversy around Indian cricketer Ravindra Jadeja and his wife Riva posing with this pride of lions.Well at that moment we enjoyed the experience of watching the pride walk along, rest, oblivious to the human presence. An experience that  we had been waiting for since many years and it got fulfilled.

The Lion Pride
Overall a very mixed experience with the positives being the sighting of the Asiatic Lion whereas the practice of trackers used by the government was a disappointment.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Trip to Pink City Jaipur, Rajasthan


Amber Fort
What kind of images would come up in your mind when the word Rajasthan in mentioned?
  • Forts
  • Palaces
  • Tales of Valor
  • Miniature Art
  • Precious stones
  • Colorful garbs
  • Puppets
  • Festivals and Fairs
  • Camels and Elephants
  • Old World Charm
Trust me, Jaipur is all this and lots more. I recently revisited the Pink City and it was a treat.
Sheesh Mahal, Amber Fort
Jaipur, the Pink City and the Capital of Rajasthan is approximately 250 kms away from New Delhi. It’s well connected by road, rail and air. Built in 1727 it is one of the well-planned cities of India. The City is divided into 9 blocks with 2 blocks housing state buildings and palaces and 7 blocks for the public. These blocks are surrounded by well-fortified walls and 7 strong gates like the Tripolia gate, Sanganeri gate etc.
A little about the history of Jaipur. Prior to Jaipur, Amber (pronounced as Amer) was the capital of Rajasthan. The Kachchawa clans of Rajputs were among the first to arrive at Amber Fort. And they built amiable relationships with the Moghul dynasty. Which is one the reasons why Jaipur monuments are a mix of Rajasthan and Moghul architecture. Raja Bihar Mal gave his daughter (Jodha) to be emperor Akbar’s wife.  Subsequent Kings like Bhagwan Das, Man Singh, and Jai Singh cemented their relationship with the Moghul and continued to operate out of Amber. However Sawai Jai Singh II moved the capital from Amber to Jaipur. Jaipur was built in consultation with some of the best mathematicians, astronomers and a very reputed architect Vidyadhar Bhattacharya. The colour pink was chosen to cut down the glare of the suns rays.
Rambagh Palace
We spent 3 days in Jaipur. Stayed at Hotel Rambagh Palace, which was built in 1835 by the Queen of Jaipur but later converted into a heritage hotel run by the Taj group. The hotel is beautiful – huge room with high ceilings, arches, facades and jharokas. Paintings of all the Kings are hung in different places. The restaurants all remind you of an era long gone- the grandeur and the look and feel of those olden days are still maintained. The Hotel houses a Golf club and Polo grounds and a wonderful garden- a veritable delight for bird watchers.  There are over 75 varieties of common and rare birds.
Entrance to Amber Fort
We spent a day at the Amber Fort and Palace. Set against the rather drab and rugged mountain background, the honey colored Fort and Palace are a sight to watch. Earlier the Jaigarh Fort used to protect the Amber Palace but later the Amber Fort was constructed. The Palace is beautiful and overlooks the Maota Lake below. Parts of the movie Jodha Akbar were shot there. What I found the most  alluring was the Sheesh Mahal- a single light was reflected into multiple images. The Diwan-e-aam, the Diwan-e-Khaas, the Jai Mandir, the Kali temple ,the latticed walls and the intricate gardens all have stories to tell. Please don’t miss out on the light and sound show of Amber Fort.
Moata Lake
After a visit to the Amber Palace we went to the City Palace. The royal family still resides in a portion of the city palace, the Chandra Mahal. It is a blend of Moghul and Rajasthan Architecture and has numerous gardens and courtyards. Other places, which caught my interest, were

Hawa Mahal
Hawa Mahal- The Palace of Winds, which was built by Sawai Pratap Singh. It overlooks the marketplace, the Sireh deorhi Bazaar. It is a wall (behind which there is a 5 storied building) and in olden time the ladies of the royal family used to watch the happenings in the market place through the multiple windows of the Mahal. It now houses a museum.

Nahargarh Fort
Nahargarh and Jaigarh Forts- The Jaigarh Fort is close to the Amber Palace and Fort and the Nahargarh Fort is a little away from Jaipur. The Nahargarh Fort is a beautiful place and though it doesn't attract many tourist compared to Amber Fort it is a must see place.          

Jal Mahal- Palace within a lake, this was created in 1799 by constructing a dam within the lake. In the evenings it is lighted up beautifully
Albert Museum
Albert Museum- a public museum situated in the Ram Niwas Bagh. 
Apart from these the Jantar Mantar, Dolls museum, Birla planetarium are common tourist spots. For those who want to visit religious shrines the Govindji temple, Jagat Shiromani temple and the Lakshminarayan temple are places to visit.  
Jaipur has extreme temperatures so it would be a good idea to check out the weather before you travel.  It’s a shoppers paradise with MI road, Tripolia bazaar, Johari bazaar, Khajane walon ka rasta and multiple other places where one can shop for textiles (the Jaipuri rajais, bedcovers), semi precious stones,  lac work, marble works, miniature paintings. . If you visit during the festival seasons the Gangaur Festival, the Kite festival are quite famous.
Before you leave Jaipur don’t forget to gorge on the delicacies of the Laxmi Misthan Bhandar. Amazing Rajasthani food!.I left Jaipur with memories of a beautiful city full of history and culture. And of course lots of clothes and Jaipuri rajais J.
Contributed by Jayashree Mishra and first published in Enigmaticindia.info site in July 2011

Trip to Aurangabad(Built by the Throne), Maharashtra


Ajanta Caves
Declared as the tourist capital of Maharashtra, Aurangabad(named after Emperor Aurangzeb) is also known as the "City of Gates". I did a weekend trip to Aurangabad and kind of fallen in love with the place...wish I lived in a place like that.

From Mumbai took the Devagiri express at 9 PM on a Friday evening. After a long time travelled in a long distance train-the journey was uneventful-the train left on time and reached around 4:30 AM. People had been scaring and discouraging me not to go there in the peak of summer- but reached there to find that it was surprisingly cool- it had rained the previous day. What struck me most was the cleanliness and absence of crowd (I guess any place after Mumbai would feel the same way).

Ellora Caves
Left for Ajanta after breakfast- took us around 2 hrs by road…the scenery and landscape isn’t much during the summers-people say it looks beautiful after the rains. Ajanta has around 26 caves- but 4-5 of them have paintings- the rest have carvings. The paintings are amazing considering the fact that they are so old- they are 3 dimensional and based on the Jataka tales…the caves are lined in the form of a horse shoe. In earlier times there was a river/spring flowing by and water used to cover the floors of the caves and sunlight would reflect from them and light up the painting and the walls ….To preserve the paintings, photography is not allowed inside. After wandering around the caves for a long time…Spent some time at the local shop that sells semi precious stones…then went back to the hotel.

The second day turned out to be pretty hectic…went early morning to Ellora. Ellora consists of 34 Hindu and Buddhist caves. Was awed by the main cave- cave 16-the Kailashnath temple – a free standing monolith carved top down from a single mountain rock. It depicts scenes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. The statues look so full of life! The Buddhist caves are beautiful- I could have spent an entire day there…but didn’t have the time…After a couple of hours went visiting temples….there’s a Jyotirlinga  temple- and then went to a Hanuman temple- where the idol of Lord Hanuman is in a sleeping position. 

En route stopped at the Daulatabad Fort- another lovely place…loved the defense mechanisms they have- the mazes…the trenches, moats, watch towers- imagine the amount of thinking that must have gone into it. It was an amazing trip into history. 
Bibi Ka Maqbara

 In the evening went to Bibi ka Maqbara- the grave of Aurungzeb's fourth wife…it is an imitation of Taj Mahal. It is built on the same line but of half marble and the rest of seashell powder. Owing  to its similarity its called the Mini Taj of the Deccan. Due to lack of water, maintenance of the gardens isn’t what is should be. 

After that went to a place called Panchakki- at first glance it looks like a mere pond- and you wonder what’s so great about it- its actually a reservoir which is fed by water from a source that is about 5-6 kms away….water comes in through earthen pipes…its a great engineering feat considering that it was built in the 17th century ….And a question crossed my mind- if problems like these had a solution then …..whats stops the govt now..to take measures to solve people’s problems…There’s a small place near Aurangabad called Jalgaon (the name seems ironic!!)- where water supply is there only once a week.

The day was almost coming to an end- had to catch the 11:30 Devagiri express back- but stopped by for a short time to see how weaving of saris and shawls is done (Paithani and Himroo are the famous saris of the place). Left the place with lovely memories and a resolve to revisit. 2 days definitely isn’t enough to see Aurangabad.

For those who want to visit, Aurangabad is well connected by road and rail. There are connecting flights to the metros. Good time to visit is October to February.
(Contributed by Jayashree Mishra and first published in Enigmaticindia.info site in July 2011)

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