Dahi Handi is a famous sportive event organized in many places of Maharashtra on the next day of Janmashtami. Janmashtami, is an annual festival that celebrates the birth of Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu. It is observed according to Hindu calendar, on the eighth day of the dark fortnight in the month of Shraavana, which corresponds to August and September months of the Gregorian calendar.
Dahi Handi celebration commemorates the way of living of Lord Krishna. Dahi translates to curd and Handi translates to earthen pot used to process and keep the milk products. In his childhood, young Krishna was very fond of curd and butter. While growing up he became notorious for stealing it. The female folks in the neighborhood became cautious and started hanging the milk products from the ceiling to keep them out of reach of Krishna and his friends. To defeat this idea Krishna devised the idea of forming human pyramids, by which they could reach the Handi.
Every year during Janmashtami this event from the life of Krishna is played by youngsters. In Mumbai and suburbs it has become a competitive sport, with participation of many teams. In the recent years, female teams have also started to participate in the event. These sporting events, often carries prize money with the support of local political parties and leaders. These team’s youth called ‘Govindas’ climb one over another and form a human pyramid and then break the Handi.
This temple is located in the Bhojpur village in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. The temple construction was started in the 11th century, during the reign of Paramara king Bhoja. The construction was abandoned for unknown reasons, with the architectural plans engraved on the surrounding rocks.
It appears that the construction work stopped abruptly due to unknown reasons. Historians speculate that the abandonment may have been triggered by a sudden natural disaster, lack of resources or a war. To the north and east of the temple, there are several quarry sites, where unfinished architectural fragments in various stages of carving were discovered.
The temple lies on a platform which is 35m long, 25m wide and 4m high. A huge limestone lingam is installed on the platform. The total height of the lingam, including the platform is over 12m. The doorway to the sanctum is 10m high. The wall at the entrance features sculptures of apsaras, ganas and other goddesses. The temple walls are made of large sandstone blocks, without windows. The northern, southern and eastern walls of the temple, features three balconies, purely for ornamental purpose. They cannot be approached from either inside or outside of the temple, because they are located high up on the walls, which provided a drainage outlet for the liquid used to bathe the lingam.
In the year 1951, the site was handed over to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for conservation. Under the supervision of ASI, the restoration of the damaged temple was taken place and the temple has been designated as a Monument of National Importance.
Vidisha is located 10km northeast of Sanchi, between Betwa and Bes Rivers. It was one of the oldest cities in the Indian subcontinent and was a major commercial centre in the 5th and 6th centuries BC. Later it was known as Besnagar during the Buddhist emperor Ashoka’s reign and then passed through the hands of the Mughals and then to the Scindias. There are few important monuments located near this town.
Bijamandal, which is popularly known as Vijayamandira is Temple built during the Paramara period in the eleventh century and is located at the eastern edge of the old town of Vidisha. The temple was destroyed in the year 1682. After its demolition, Aurangzeb, the Mughal emperor, constructed a mosque called Alamgiri Masjid, at the site. The materials of the destroyed temple, was used in the construction of this mosque.
Other materials are scattered all around the site. One of the pillars bears the inscription which suggests that the original temple was dedicated to Goddess Charchika. The same inscription also bears the name of King Naravarman and Goddess Vijaya, after whom the temple is believed to be named.
It appears that the original temple was of considerable dimension approachable by a high flight of steps on its three sides. Not far from the temple site one could see the ancient baoli (stepwell) with carved pillars belonging to the eight century.
Udayagiri is about 4km from the town of Vidisha and about 13km from the Buddhist site of Sanchi. Cut into a sandstone hill, are some 20 Gupta cave shrines dating from the reign of Chandragupta II (382 – 401). Most are Hindu but two are Jain. Some of the caves are closed due to unsafe roofs. Cave no. 5 has an image of Vishnu in his boar incarnation. On the top of the hill are ruins of a 6th century Gupta temple dedicated to the sun god.
Not far from the Bijamandal is the Heliodorus Pillar. The Heliodorus pillar is a stone column that was erected around 113 BC in Vidisha by Heliodorus, from Taxila. He was the Greek ambassador of the Indo-Greek King Antialcidas. The pillar was surmounted by a sculpture of Garuda and was apparently dedicated by Heliodorus to the god Vasudeva.
The pillar is worshipped by local fishermen. On full moon nights one is chained to the pillar, he becomes possessed and is able to drive evil spirits from other locals. When someone has been exorcised, they drive a nail into the tamarind tree nearby, fixing to it a lime, a piece of coconut, a red threat and supposedly the spirit. The large tree is bristling with old nails.
Jhansi Fort is situated on Bangira hilltop in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. It was constructed in 1613 by Bir Sing Deo the king of Orchha. In 1728 Mohammed Khan Bangash the Mughal General attacked Maharaja Chattrasal. Peshwa Bajirao helped Maharaja Chattrasal to defeat the Mughal army. As a mark of gratitude, the Maharaja offered part of his state including Jhansi to Peshwa Bajirao. In 1742 the Peshwa appointed Naroshanker as the subedar of Jhansi. During his tenure of 15 years he extended the fort and built many buildings inside the fort. From 1766 to 1769 Vishwas Rao Laxman served as the subedar of Jhansi. Then Raghunath Rao (II) Newalkar was appointed the subedar of Jhansi. He was a very able administrator and built the Mahalakshmi temple and Ragunath temple.
During the time of Raja Gangadhar Rao, a generous and sympathetic administrator the local population of Jhansi was well satisfied. In 1842 Raja Gangadhar Rao married Manikarknika Tambe who was given the new name of Laxmi Bai. She gave birth to a boy named Damodar Rao, in 1851, who died after four months. The Maharaja adopted a child called Anand Rao, the son of Gangadhar Rao’s cousin who was renamed Damodar Rao on the day before the Maharaja died. The adoption was in the presence of the British political officer who was given letter from the Maharaja instructing that the child be treated with respect and that the government of Jhansi should be given to his widow for her lifetime. After the death of Maharaja in November 1853, because Damodar Rao (born Anand Rao) was adopted, the British East India Company, under Governor-General Lord Dalhousie, applied the Doctrine of Lapse, rejecting Damodar Rao’s claim to the throne and annexing the state to its territories. In March 1854, Laxmi Bai was given an annual pension of Rs. 60,000/- and ordered to leave the palace and the fort. In 1857, the revolt broke out and she took the control of the fort and led Jhansi forces against those of the British East India Company.
Jhansi was besieged by the company forces of General Hugh Rose in March and April 1858 and was captured on 4th April 1858. Rani Laxmi Bai was able to make a daring escape on horseback from the fort and the city before the city was pillaged by Rose’s troops.
The fort of Jhansi spreads over 15 acres and the colossal structure measures about 312m in length and 225m in width. There are twenty two supports with a mammoth wall surrounded by a moat on both sides. The granite walls of the fort are between 16 and 20 feet thick and on the south side meet the city walls. There are 10 gates giving access to the fort. The Kadak Bijli cannon used in the uprising of 1857 can be seen inside the fort.
Sarkhej Roza is located 8 km southwest of the city of Ahmedabad in the Indian state of Gujarat. This mosque and tomb complex is known as “Acropolis of Ahmedabad”, due to 20th century architect Le Corbusier’s famous comparison of this mosque’s design to the Acropolis of Athens.
Sarkhej was once a prominent centre of Sufi culture in the country and is where the influential Sufi saint Shaikh Ahmed Khattu Ganj Baksh lived. The architecture of this complex is credited to the Persian brothers Azam and Muazzam Khan. The complex was originally spread over 72 acres, surrounded by elaborate gardens on all sides. Over time human settlements came around it, eating into the gardens and reducing the area to 34 acres.
Shaikh Ahmed Khattu Ganj Bakhsh the friend and advisor of Ahmed Shah I, retired to Sarkhej in his later life and died here in 1445. In his honour, a tomb was constructed by Ahmed Shah II. The construction of the tomb was begun in 1445 and was finished in 1451. The next sultan Mahmud Begada was fond of the place and expanded the complex greatly. He dug a large lake, surrounded it with cut stone steps and built a splendid palace on its south-west corner. He also raised a mausoleum for himself and his family opposite to Ganj Baksh’s tomb.
There is a sixteen pillared structure popularly known as Baradari is situated in the central portion of the open courtyard and is seen when we enter the main gate of the Roza. There is a folklore which says that the excavation of the lake and the building of the Jama masjid in its initial states were supervised by Shaikh Ahmed Khattu himself from the Baradari.
Beyond the Mausoleum of Ganj Bakhsh is a courtyard, covering more than an acre of ground, surrounded by cloisters, is a huge mosque. The other side of the lake on the south-west corner are Mahmud Begada’s palace and harem.
Like many of Ahmedabad’s structures the architecture of Sarkhej Roza is a combination of elements of Hindu and Islamic design. Most of the buildings do not have arches and depend on pierced stone trellises for stability.
Not far from the Rani-ki-Vav (queen’s stepwell) in the town of Patan (Gujarat State) is the Sahastralinga Talav, an excellent example of the ancient water management system of Gujarat. It was constructed by Raja Sidhraj Jai sing in 1084 AD. This artificial reservoir is spread over an area of about five kilometres with stone embankments. The tank was designed to receive water from the nearby Saraswati River through a canal. There were thousand Shiva Shrines on the edge of the tank of which some ruins are still exists. The tank derived its name from these shrines. The tank is empty now and in ruins.
As per legend, during the construction of the tank, Raja Sidhraj Jai Singh fell in love with the beautiful maiden Jasma Odan, who belongs to the tank digger’s community. She refused the request of the king and committed sati (a former practice in India, whereby a widow threw herself into the funeral pyre of her husband) in order to save her dignity. It is believed that due to her curse the tank dried up.
If you walk further one kilometre towards the river bank you will reach to a tomb complex, which is locally known as ‘Panch Pir ki Dargha’ (Tomb of five saints). This complex mostly in ruins, contain a Baradari(a pavilion with 12 doors, designed to allow free flow of air) and mausoleum of five saints. The tomb of one saint is inside a domed structure. The other four tombs are on the right side of this structure on a raised platform which is opened to sky.
Rani-ki-Vav is an intricately constructed stepwell situated in the town of Patan in the Indian state of Gujarat. Patan which lays about 130km northwest of Ahmedabad, was an ancient Hindu capital before being sacked by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1024 AD. Rani-ki-Vav is an excellent example of its former glory. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is situated on the banks of Saraswati River. This stepwell is the finest in Gujarat and remarkably well preserved after it was restored in the 1980s. It bagged the title of “Cleanest Iconic Place” in India at the Indian Sanitation Conference in October 2016.
This stepwell was constructed during the rule of the Chalukya dynasty. It is believed that it was built in memory of Bhima I (1022-1064AD) by his widowed queen Udayamati and probably completed by Udayamati and Karna after his death. The stepwell was later flooded by the nearby Saraswati River and silted over until the late 1980s.
Rani-ki-Vav was built in the Maru-Gurjara architectural style. This well measures approximately 64 m long, 20 m wide and 27 m deep. It consists of many pillared pavilions at seven different levels. Minute and exquisite carvings adorn the walls of the well. Most of the sculptures are in devotion to Vishnu depicted in his ten incarnations. It also depicts Nagkanya, Yogini and Apsaras. Apsaras are depicted in 16 different style of make-up to look more attractive which is called Solah-shringar.
This stepwell was not merely a site for collecting water and socialising, but also hold great spiritual significance. It explicit the ancient concept of the sanctity of water and they considered it as an inverted temple. There are around 800 elaborate sculptures among seven galleries. At the bottom level there is a carving of Vishnu reclines on the thousand-hooded serpent. There is also a small gate below the last step of the step well, with a 30km tunnel (currently blocked by stones and mud), which leads to the town of Sidhpur near Patan. It was used as an escape gateway for the king, in times of defeat.
Rani-ki-Vav is situated in an earthquake prone area and due to this Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has put it on high alert regarding the risk preparedness and disaster management. Only the top 2 levels of the well are accessible to the visitors and the rest of the areas are out of bound to the visitors.
A visit to Ahmedabad will be incomplete without a visit to the Sabarmati Ashram, one of the residences of Gandhiji (Mohandas Karamchand Ghandhi) on the banks of Sabarmati River. He stayed at the ashram from 1915 to 1933. The ashram is a witness to many important historical events connected with the Independence movement of India.
The Ashram was originally established at the Kocharab Bungalow of Jivanlal Desai, a barrister and friend of Gandhiji, on 25 May 1915. At that time the ashram was called the Satyagrah Ashram. But Gandhiji wanted to carry out various activities such as farming and animal husbandry in addition to other pursuits which called for the need for much larger area of useable land. So 2 years later, the ashram was relocated to an area of thirty six acres on the banks of the river Sabarmati, and came to be known as Sabarmati Ashram.
When you enter the ashram, the first thing, which attract your attention is the ‘three wise monkeys’. “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”.
The ashram now has a museum, the Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalya, built in 1963 and designed by the architect Charles Correa. The museum was inaugurated by Jawaharlal Nehru on 10 May 1963. The museum contains a vast collection of manuscripts of Gandhiji’s writings during his stay here. It holds many photographs and other artefacts connected with the life and works of Gandhiji.
The main attraction of the ashram is Gandhiji’s own cottage which is known as “Hriday Kunj”. Here visitors can see the things which Gandhiji used – a writing desk, a khadi kurta, a yarn spun by him etc.
Another important structure in the ashram is Vinoba Kutir. This cottage is named after Acharya Vinoba Bhave who stayed here. It is also known as Mira Kutir after Miraben (Madeleine Slade, daughter of British Rear Admiral Sir Edmond Slade) who later lived there following Gandhiji’s principles.
On the right hand side of ‘Hridaya Kunj’ is ‘Nandini’, the Ashram guest house, where guests from India and abroad are put up. Many well known personalities like Reginald Reynolds, Deenbandhu Andrews, Henry Polak, Kallenbach, Dharmanand Kosambi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajendra Prasad, Badshah Khan and Rajaji stayed here.
It was from the Sabarmati ashram that on 12 March 1930, Gandhiji marched to Dandi, 241 miles from the ashram, with 78 companions to protest the British salt law, which increased the taxes on Indian salt in an effort to promote sales of British salt in India. This mass civil disobedience in turn led to the jailing of some 60,000 freedom fighters by the British Raj over the following weeks. Subsequently the ashram was seized by the government. Gandhiji later asked the government to give it back but they refused to do so. On 22nd July 1933, Gandhiji disbanded the ashram, which then became a deserted place after the detention of so many. On 12th March 1930 Gandhiji had vowed that he would not return to the ashram until India had gained independence. Although India was declared a free nation on 15th August 1947, Gandhiji was assassinated on 30th January 1948.
Kankaria lake, formerly known as Hauz-e-Qutub is situated in the south-eastern part of the Ahmedabad city in the Maninagar area. This polygonal lake was built in 1451 by Sultan Qutbuddin. At the centre of the lake is a garden called Nagina Wadi (which means beautiful garden in Urdu). In 2008 the lake front was revamped and developed around it with many public attractions like zoo, toy train, tethered balloon ride, water rides, food stalls etc.
Another important attraction around the lake is the Dutch and Armenian tombs. They are located on the One Tree Hill embankment, announcing the strong trade presence of the Dutch East India Company in the city of Ahmedabad. In the 17th and 18th centuries Dutch traders from Holland came to Gujarat. They used to trade cotton cloth, yarn and indigo. Surat was the main centre of their trade but a small number of them lived in Ahmedabad. These tombs were built in their memory. The tombs were built in Saracenic style with domes and pillars. The dates of the tombs are ranging from 1641 to 1699. The Armenian tombs belonged to the brokers in the Dutch factory. The inscriptions in some of the tombs are in Dutch and Latin.