A few words about the previous day
I’m skipping a day with this blog because on 8th January I only travelled from Indore to Bhopal, except in the morning I visited one more attraction of the Indore city – Lalbaugh Palace. Since the photography wasn’t allowed in the palace, I have nothing much to share about it in my story.
So as I had mentioned at the very beginning of the Madhya Pradesh trip blog, I was visiting Bhopal to meet my old friend and colleague Kumar Sambhav. When I arrived in Bhopal after a 5 hour bus journey, Sambhav arrived in his car to receive me. He was accompanied by his friend and he called him “Mantu”. I still don’t know what his real name was. I never even asked him. Meeting a friend after more than 10 years sure brings back many memories. I transferred my bags in his car and we relived the old memories as Sambhav was driving me to my hotel. The plan was to go for a little city tour as the day was already ending followed with dinner in a nearby hotel.
Ever since I met Sambhav in 2005, he had made an impression that he’s not a 9 to 5 job going guy. His dreams were bigger. He wanted to start his own business and he clearly showed that he had the talent and capabilities of doing that. So one fine day he left the Mumbai city for good and went back to Bhopal to fulfill his dreams. He started his own animation studio in Bhopal on the top floor of his own house. This also happens to be the very first animation studio in the entire Madhya Pradesh. As the business grew, he moved the studio to Bhopal city in the downtown area. I was happy to hear his success story. He was even awarded by the Madhya Pradesh government for his entrepreneurship and for opening new job opportunities for youths of Bhopal and Madhya Pradesh.
Mantu was also an entrepreneur. He had started a new tea brand called ‘Tea Friends’ and had various outlets in the city. He was also as talkative and fun guy as Sambhav.
After checking into the hotel, I explored the city with Sambhav and Mantu. We visited Bada Talao (Upper Lake), Bhopal Bhavan and Mantu’s fancy stall, where I got to taste various different tea flavours he had come up with. After that we had an amazingly delicious dinner at a restaurant very close to my hotel.
Sambhav had already hired a car for further travels on my behalf. The driver picked me up from my hotel and then we drove to Sambhav’s studio. I had already met with everyone in the studio the previous day. We were waiting for Mantu to arrive and then we were going to head to Sanchi Stupas. I had already asked the driver to suggest all the local food joints that he is aware of and he did an excellent job. We had delicious breakfast on the way to Sanchi Stupas.
Sanchi Stupas are buddhist complex located 46 kms north-east of Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh.
The Great Stupa at Sanchi is one of the oldest stone structures in India, and an important monument of Indian Architecture. It was originally commissioned by the emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE. Its nucleus was a simple hemispherical brick structure built over the relics of the Buddha. It was crowned by the chhatri, a parasol-like structure symbolising high rank, which was intended to honour and shelter the relics. The original construction work of this stupa was overseen by Ashoka, whose wife Devi was the daughter of a merchant of nearby Vidisha. Sanchi was also her birthplace as well as the venue of her and Ashoka’s wedding. In the 1st century BCE, four elaborately carved toranas (ornamental gateways) and a balustrade encircling the entire structure were added. The Sanchi Stupa built during the Mauryan period was made of bricks. The composite flourished until the 11th century.
Sanchi is the center of a region with a number of stupas, all within a few miles of Sanchi, including Satdhara (9 km to the W of Sanchi, 40 stupas, the Relics of Sariputra and Mahamoggallana, now enshrined in the new Vihara, were unearthed there), Bhojpur (also called Morel Khurd, a fortified hilltop with 60 stupas) and Andher (respectively 11 km and 17 km SE of Sanchi), as well as Sonari (10 km SW of Sanchi). Further south, about 100 km away, is Saru Maru. Bharhut is 300 km to the northeast.
Tropic Of Cancer
On the way to the Sanchi Stupas we came across an interesting place. There was a wall next to a road titled ‘Karka Rekha – Tropic Of Cancer’. Two very faint lines were visible on the road which matched with the two lines drawn right below the wall sign. Most of the people know only the important latitude on our planet i.e. Equator which divides the planet in the northern and southern hemisphere. But apart from the equator we have two more latitudes which are in ‘Tropic of Cancer’ and ‘Tropic of Capricorn’ located in the northern and southern hemisphere of earth respectively. Only the parts of the earth that lie between these to latitudes can experience the minimum distance to the sun once in a year. Meaning in these regions once a year you can see the sun exactly above your head. All the regions beyond these two latitudes can never see the sun right overhead. This is a special phenomenon caused by a tilt of the earth’s axis. Sun touches the ‘Tropic of Cancer’ on the day of summer solstice which happens around June 20. Similarly the Sun touches the ‘Tropic of Capricorn’ on the winter solstice which happens around December 21.
The Udayagiri Caves are twenty rock-cut caves near Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh from the early years of the 5th century CE.] They contain some of the oldest surviving Hindu temples and iconography in India. They are the only site that can be verifiably associated with a Gupta period monarch from its inscriptions. One of India’s most important archaeological sites, the Udayagiri hills and its caves are protected monuments managed by the Archaeological Survey of India.
Udayagiri caves contain iconography of Vaishnavism (Vishnu), Shaktism (Durga and Matrikas) and Shaivism (Shiva). They are notable for the ancient monumental relief sculpture of Vishnu in his incarnation as the man-boar Varaha, rescuing the earth symbolically represented by Bhudevi clinging to the boar’s tusk as described in Hindu mythology. The site has important inscriptions of the Gupta dynasty belonging to the reigns of Chandragupta II (c. 375-415) and Kumaragupta I (c. 415-55). In addition to these, Udayagiri has a series of rock-shelters and petroglyphs, ruined buildings, inscriptions, water systems, fortifications and habitation mounds, all of which remain a subject of continuing archaeological studies. The Udayagiri Caves complex consists of twenty caves, of which one is dedicated to Jainism and all others to Hinduism. The Jain cave is notable for one of the oldest known Jaina inscriptions from 425 CE, while the Hindu Caves feature inscriptions from 401 CE
To Be Continued…