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. 🙂
When we arrived at the Rao Madho Singh Trust Museum in Kota on that November morning last year, I was taken aback to see the freshly whitewashed exteriors of the Museum building. I mean, why would a red sandstone structure be whitewashed over? The white is so blinding in the mid-morning sunlight that I had to shade my eyes to even look at it.
The Museum is located within the historic Kota City Palace or Kota Garh complex, which consists of many buildings, but none of the other buildings in the palace complex were whitewashed. In fact, the building next to the Museum has been spared the whitewash (except for the domes) and I was able to admire the intricate stone jaalis or lattice-work that covered the entire structure.
The building with the jaalis, however, was not open to the public, making me wonder if the whitewash was for the benefit of the visitors to the Museum, who (according to the website) visit it see its
rich collections of arms and armour, royal regalia and ritual paraphernalia, textiles and objets d’art, and world-famous miniature paintings and wall frescos.
As our group was entering the Museum, there was a moment of panic where I wondered if the interiors of the Museum have been whitewashed over as well, obliterating the wall paintings that I was most keen to see. But then just past the Elephant Gate (see header), I looked up and saw a gloriously painted ceiling (see photograph below) and I knew that all was well.
It was supposed to be just a visit to the ruins of the Bhand Devra or Bhand Deora Temple, a 10th century CE temple enroute to Kota from Jhalawar. My friend Shubhra aka Historywali had told me that this was a place I should not miss, especially since I would be in the area. Little did I know it would turn out to be much more than just a visit to a temple ruin.
The day had begun with us (my friend Niti and I) bidding goodbye to Jhalawar and our fabulous host, Mahijit ji, before setting off on a 2.5-hour journey by road to the temple. Though Manoj, our car driver, wasn’t sure of the temple’s exact location, he knew the area and assured us that he would get us to the temple. All we had to do was to sit back and enjoy the drive that initially passed though a hilly and forested section, before the landscape flattened out.
About 2 hours into the journey, we saw a strange, flat-topped elevation rising in the distance. On asking Manoj if he knew anything about it, he just shrugged and said that it was a hill and the Bhand Devra Temple was close to it. I was intrigued for the hill didn’t look like any that I had seen before and I decided to check Google Maps to see if it could tell me what it was.
What came up had me rubbing my eyes in disbelief; Niti’s reaction was no different. We were looking at (see the screenshot I took below) what appeared to be a hollow hill or a a crater. An impact crater.
The modern history of Jhalrapatan town in the Hadoti region of Rajasthan is about 200 years old. It began in 1838, when the rulers of the newly formed princely state of Jhalawar chose Jhalrapatan as their base till a new capital city (present day Jhalawar) could be built. Before the arrival of the Jhalawar royals, Jhalrapatan was known as Patan; the word ‘Jhala’ was prefixed to it in recognition and in honour of its new rulers, who belonged to the community of Jhala Rajputs as in “Jhala ra Patan” or the Patan of the Jhalas. But even today, almost two centuries later, locals still refer to the town as Patan; it is the tourists who refer to the town as Jhalrapatan!
Jhalrapatan’s history extends back to centuries before the creation of Jhalawar state, when it was known as a temple town as well as a major trading centre. In its former avatar, the walled town was supposed to have been home to 108 temples. Imagine the sound of the bells of all 108 temples ringing at the same time — one legend says that this is how ‘Jhalrapatan got its name. As a trading centre, Jhalrapatan used was known for its opium and spices.
I spent one evening in Jhalrapatan exploring its various sights beginning with Madan Vilas, the erstwhile holiday home for the royal family, now owned by the Rajasthan state government, and then moved on to the temples of the town.