When I visited you the February 2017, it was a trip of many firsts — the first time I was travelling to the Northeast region of India, the first time I visited Assam, the first time I visited a wildlife sanctuary (as an adult), the first time I brought back fresh produce from the Uzanbazaar market in Guwahati for my Amma, much to her surprise and great delight, and many more firsts.
The trip materialised out of the blue with an invitation to be a part of journalists and travel writers from the organisers of the Rongali Assam, a cultural festival to be held in Guwahati in the first week of February 2017. Even, as I sent in my acceptance mail to the organisers of Rongali, I was already planning how I could do some independent travel on my own in Assam.
Some research later, I zeroed in on visiting Kaziranga, Sivasagar, and Hoollongapar for a three-day independent trip before I joined the rest of the group for the Rongali Festival. It has been more than two years since that trip, but I can still remember the wide-eyed excitement and thrill I felt when I landed in Guwahati, and which lasted me all through the trip. When I boarded my return flight to Mumbai 6 days later, it was with a suitcase full of souvenirs and brochures, a heart filled with happiness and also memories and experiences of a trip like no other.
Let me give you a glimpse into what my Assam trip was like.
When I arrived at The Bungalow on the Beach in the sleepy coastal town of Tranquebar — or Tharangambadi as it is locally known — around 11 am on that humid and muggy August day last year, I was in a bit of a funk.
My train to Karaikal (the nearest railway station) from Chennai had arrived nearly 4 hours late, which meant that I had missed breakfast (my most important meal of the day) and also a morning’s worth of exploring Tranquebar. Not only was I hungry, I also had the beginnings of a migraine which, I knew from past experience, had the potential to ruin my holiday.
My mood did not improve over the peaceful drive from Karaikal to Tranquebar or the first sight of the blue-green waters of the Bay of Bengal or the beautiful heritage Bungalow that was going to be my home. The warm welcome at the Bungalow did make me feel a little better, but by that time all I wanted to do was to do was to sleep off my migraine.
But when I was ushered into Princess Louise, which is what my room was called, all thoughts of sleep vanished. 🙂
The Hadoti region of Rajasthan covers 4 distrcits — Bundi, Kota, Jhalawar and Baran — and till I visited it in November 2016, this was the only region I had not explored in the state. It was a much awaited trip, one that threw up many surprises and one that left me with a “why didn’t I visit before?”. It was a trip of many firsts as well, including the first time I travelled with One Life to Travel (OLTT), and one that will rank in my list of memorable trips.
In fact, when I look back at my Hadoti trip in November last year, the word that comes to mind is ‘serendipity’.
How else would you explain a trip that started off as as a Bundi trip but ended up being a Jhalawar–Jhalrapatan–Kolvi–Ramgarh–Kota–Bijolia–Badoli–Bundi trip? How else would you explain a 3-day trip becoming an 8-day trip? How else would you explain the said 8-day trip leading to so many (19 at last count!) blogposts? How else would you explain connecting with people you’ve never met before and becoming friends?
Its been almost 9 months since my return and I have been reliving the Hadoti trip since I started blogging about it here in April ! If I enjoyed writing about that trip, your response to the posts was even more so. So many of you wanted to know more about the trip and the places I visited — more than what I had blogged about — with regard to itineraries, tips, etc.
And so here I am with a Hadoti Trip Planner based on what you asked via blog comments/ mails/ messages. 🙂
When I arrived in Bundi, the last leg of my Hadoti trip, I had been travelling in the region for 4 days with my friend, Niti. That first sight of the imposing Taragarh Palace from the road was a sight to behold.
We were to join the group from One Life to Travel (OLTT) in Bundi, a place that had long been on my list of places to travel to. Thanks to OLTT, I was finally in Bundi looking forward to exploring it over the next couple of days. And yet… something was not quite right.
I was overcome with a sense of fatigue — not physical, but mental. Actually, fatigue is not the right word for what I was feeling; overwhelmed would be a more accurate term. Overwhelmed from all that I had experienced in the last four days — temples, museums, palaces, a fort, rock-cut caves, etc. all of which had been unexpectedly beautiful, enriching and thought-provoking. If you have been following my posts on this trip, you’ll know what I mean.
As I sat, listless and lethargic, having my evening tea in the lawns of the hotel we were staying in, I wondered what to do. I had the evening free for the rest of the OLTT group would be arriving late that night. Should I go to bed early or should I read a racy thriller I had with me or should I just sit in the lawns and listen to some music?
Let’s go for a walk and wander around in Bundi, suggested Niti.
My visit to the temples at Badoli in November last year turned out to be a memorable one.
First, my camera battery died on me suddenly and without warning. Then my iPad camera stopped functioning, and if that weren’t enough my temperamental cell phone decided to be on its worst behaviour. Talk about bad luck coming in threes ! The result? I have a total of 28 photos from all these 3 devices of the visit to the temples at Badoli.
Second, the temples at Badoli itself for there were many little surprises and discoveries waiting for me. Since I hadn’t read up or researched on the temples prior to my visit, everything about the place was unexpected. Of course, I read the information board placed at the entrance for some guidance, but we all know how detailed those are ! For example, the opening lines of the information board say that the:
Badoli Group is a cluster of nine temples that is stylistically dated to circa 10th-11th century AD [sic]. These temples are dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu, Ganesha, Mahisasuramardini and Mataji, etc. [emphasis mine]
It then goes on to talk about the main Shiva temple there — the Ghateshwara Mahadeva Temple. As I was to find out, and you will too when you read the rest of the post, some of the most interesting and significant features of the Badoli temples were not mentioned in the board at all, unless we assume that the word ‘etc.’ in the lines above was meant to encompass everything else. 😛
It is past noon on that November day in 2016, when Niti (my friend and co-traveller for the Hadoti Trip) and I arrive at the Bijolia Temple Complex. There are three Shiva temples here — Mahakal, Undeshwar Mahadev and Hajareshwar temples — built over a 200-year-old period. Except for the priests who are gathered under a tree and chatting away, we can’t see anybody else around. The Mahakal Temple is closest to the entrance and we decide to begin with exploring that first, which turns out to be empty and silent.
We have hardly been there for 5 minutes when the silence is broken. A group of women and children enter with pooja thalis in hand. They appear to be locals and walk past us with smiles full of friendliness and curiosity towards the garbha griha or the sanctum. After a little hesitation, we follow and watch them offer pooja.
The Shiva lingam in the garbha griha is not visible because it is covered with flowers from earlier offerings. Or so I reason till one of the women explains that the lingam is subterranean with only the tip visible above ground, which she showed by pushing the flowers aside.
The women and children leave after performing a short and beautiful pooja, and we are alone at the Mahakal Temple once again, free to resume our exploration of the Bijolia Temple Complex. 🙂