Posted in Forests, Rail Journeys, road trips, travel

Bedaghat, the phenomenal beauty of white marble rocks

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Nature around us is mostly about the mountains, seas and forests. We think of nature and most naturally one of these imageries is created. Their abundance around us makes it even more obvious. We think of the altitudes from where we atop the whole world, we think of the oceans and sink deep into an inner world and we think of forests and start forgetting about the rest of the world. There is a harmony that we recreate every time we get close to the nature.

But nature sometimes is different. It is more than its harmony and its beauty. It is astonishing, bewildering and charismatic. It is beyond the definition of uniqueness. It is some form of natural phenomenon whose existence widens our eyes and expands our horizon. We are simply left with an expression “Wow, does this exist in real? “

The white marble rocks of Bedaghat in the heart of India is one such natural phenomenon. Having extensively traveled in India, I have a fair idea of the topography of different regions, but Bedaghat was a lot more than a surprise. What is even more surprising is that despite the extraordinary beauty, it is still one of the unconventional and untouched tourist destinations. It may look like a picnic spot for the local tourists & it is yet not placed eminently on the global tourist map.

So what is Bedaghat really? What makes it a natural phenomenon worth visiting? And why should you be visiting this place at a particular time of the year?

Bedaghat is a tiny tourist destination, about an hour’s drive away from the city of Jabalpur in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Nauka Vihar, as they call it is on the banks of river Narmada which has the unique view of the river that manages to flow between the gorges formed between the giant white marble rocks that have been in this place since forever. The history of these rocks go beyond the history of mankind and the depth of the river here is yet unknown to mankind. What is amazingly unique about these rocks is that they are white and they shine bright on the moonlit nights.

These rocks are huge enough to be categorized into hills but they are essentially made out of marble and you can see the carvings in many places which now also have mythological attuning. The best and the only way to explore the grandeur of these rocks is to hop on one of the wooden & rustic rowing boats and take a ride with the local oarsman. What is more surprising than the view is the creativity of these guys who know all about these rocks. With their song and the view of these rocks, this one hour of boat ride will be an entertainer. They do the narration in Hindi, so you would enjoy only if you know the language. Else, the serenity of these rocks will keep you wonderstruck anyway.

There is also a display of bravery in this place. The local kids climb up the cliff and jump into the river fearlessly. What is risk for us is an adventure for them; a quick, unthoughtful and silly adventure done for a small amount of money. At times, this is what India is made up of – poverty and strength.

The breeze through the gorge caresses you even on the sunny days.  The water is still but the ripples keep coming as they row the boat. The sky is clear and bright blue, but now I am curious how it would be on a full moon night; pretty romantic and soulful. The foreplay of clouds and the moon is always more attractive than that with the sun. The darkness will disappear as these rocks would illuminate under the moonlight. The experience of nature in that setting would elate the soul, I can already imagine.

Though there is no visible end to this gorge, it finally meets the Dhuadhar waterfall which is a few kilometers away from Nauka Vihar. The tourists can access only a small part of this gorge, where many of the eighties Bollywood scenes have also been shot.

The trip to Jabalpur can be easily summoned in a day, where you should not forget to try the local street food of Jabalpur.

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Posted in Rail Journeys, Rajasthan, travel

On a winter morning, At Ajmer Sharif Dargah

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Are you a solo traveler in India? Are you a female solo traveler in India? More so, are you a female solo traveler paving your way towards Ajmer? Here are a few generic insights culled out from my recent trip to Dargah Sharif, where was laid the foundation stone of Islam.

The distance to Ajmer can be set in an overnight train from Delhi, if you are a loner, prefer booking your berth in the AC coach for a few logical reasons. The co passengers are more trustworthy, you can trust them with the luggage in case you want to use the loo. If it is a wintery night, you get clean bedding that makes your night journey more comfortable.

Once you reach Ajmer, use the G-maps to find out the way. Dargah is at a walkable distance from the railway station as well as the bus stop. Beware of the rickshaw-walas who might want to charge you a hefty amount knowing that you are a tourist in their city.

There are different gates to reach the Dargah. The Laxmi Bazaar entrance is the nearest from the station. It is absolutely safe to cross check your way with the locals there but make sure you ask at least a handful of people to get a confirmation on the way. There are quite a few twists and turns on the way; the bazaar lanes branch out into a multitude of routes which the G-map might not be able to identify.

Once you are closer to the Dargah, you would be approached by many shop owners to buy items that you can donate at the Dargah. Be very conscious of buying, in case you do not want to donate, do not be bothered by their constant nagging. In case you change your mind later, there are shops within the Dargah as well. Many of them will also trick you into removing the shoes and keeping it in their shop; make sure you do not fall for one of those. There are proper facilities available within the Dargah and it is best to use them. They are safe and closest to what you can get.

If you are one of those tourists who like to spend a lot of time understanding the history and architecture of the monument, or if you are one of those who like to immerse in the spiritual vibe of the shrine, or even if you are one of those who like to spend a comfortable time with the God within the shrine, make sure you carry minimum luggage with you and in fact nothing significant. Ajmer Sharif Dargah is usually a very crowded spot, owing to its significance in the religious history of India. Even though luggage deposit services are available, it is hard sometimes to manage everything manually, which can lead to an increased probability of losing the stuff. The crowd is immense during the Urs and other Islamic festivals. A high alert level should come in handy at a place like this.

Usually one tends to be immersed in the sufi vibe of this place but being a solo visitor can make you lose the carefree vibe. While it is important to enjoy the peace of the place, it becomes equally important to not lose the peace of our own mind. Personally, I chose a mundane Monday morning to visit the Dargah; it was not surprising to find a lot of walking space and yet witness the sincere dedication and offerings of the faithful.

There is a tint of green in everything you see inside the Dargah. The old monument is intact and holds the history of many generations within. Many emperors have witnessed the rise of Islam through this very land. A faith of many centuries is visible and strongly held in the practices followed even in this modern age.  Some of the archaic traditions are still in practice. From invocations to blessings, many there have something to seek from Allah; many also are searching for themselves, within their soul. It is a common sight to see humans rolling themselves on the floor, crying out loud, just so the God hears them, accepts them and give them what they want. Some of these traditions seem to be unnerving in today’s age.  But then there is also the most natural, and always within range, the sufi music, which is soothing and soul touching. It has the shine of the sun and the depth of the ocean. It has the divinity which not only reaches for the clear conscience but also touches the surreal depths of the heart. If I had more time and no further travel plan, I would have waited in the shrine to see, hear and absorb more of this music that fills the air.

I was getting somewhat conscious being alone there and was not up to the highest mark of my carefree capabilities. I decided to take an early bus to Pushkar, 15 kilometers from Ajmer, where I was looking forward to explore some of the more unique pilgrimages of India.

As I found out my way out from the Dargah, the first thing I saw was a Hindu temple and a little further, on the main road, was a church. It fills me with wonderment every time I see these tiny yet significant examples of the national integration and harmony. In a pro-Islamic area, there is space and an open heart for the other cultures to co-exist. This is the true India that the world needs to see!