Saturday, December 1, 2012

Madhya Pradesh - Day1 (Sanchi - Following the Buddhas steps)

15th and 16th Nov 2012 (Day1 - Sanchi)
          Well!! It was Madhya Pradesh this year - The heart of India, the ‘Gazab’ state of ‘Ajab’ India.
          Almost everybody was surprised, if not shocked that I was planning to take my family to MP. Unwanted snowflakes of advices fell from the expert mouths of the experts, non-experts and everybody in between
          “MP ke bare me kabhi kisise suna bhi hai kya? Everybody talks about Rajasthan, Shimla, Goa, Kerala”
          "Sanchi me Stupa dekhke kya karenge, can’t we go to some other better place?” – commented my highly opinionated wife.
          “Abe Thailand jaa, utna hi paisa lagega” – my foreign influenced friends said.
          "MP, che, you are better of going to Gujarat"
          The only thing I was concerned of was the level of safety in this state, which was not highly recommended.
          Sitting on Thane station with the entire family, waiting for the Habibganj Express felt nice. This was to be the annual family outing. Travelled 2nd class (sleeper class) after a pretty long time – my family prefers the sleeper class compared to the 3rd AC and the reasons are just as funny as they are justified. My dad can’t bear the AC and the drastic change in temperature once we are out of the train and gets breathing problems. The rest of the family likes it because of the motley thorough farers – the bhelwallahs, wada paav wallahs, chai wallahs, the seng wallahs – they say it breaks the monotony of the journey and all this is missing in the 3rd AC and upwards. We are one hungry family, aren’t we? And did I mention we are Bongs – that should justify! 
          Even though Habibganj was the last station for this train, I guess we thought we might miss it and my nephew and me guarded our bogey and stayed awake the whole night!

Guard No. 1

          A bit of caution when you are not travelling in the enclosed AC compartments:
  • It is not completely safe for women travelers. I say this because didn’t see any night patrolling in the train nor on any station. One crazy beggar entered our compartment, abused almost everybody and was quiet scary. We had a hard time driving him away and needed to be alert all the time.
  • The train was not swept and was unclean.
  • Cockroaches and a romantic rat couple made merry at the expense of horrified and jumping travelers.

Circle of Life

          This was the first tourist destination around Bhopal we were to visit. Sanchi is around 40-45 kms away from Bhopal and it takes almost the same time (1-1 ½ hrs) by bus or train to reach it, though train is far more convenient. We opted for the train which was a sort of Intercity Express and with passing stations gloriously named Sukhi Sevaniya, Salamatpur and Deewanganj, we reached Sanchi. For walking to the Stupas, you need to cross the highway. The walk is a comfortable and pleasant walk of around 2 kms. There is also a shortcut; steps leading to the main gate (look to the right a little ahead after you cross the highway). The steps will lead you to the top in no time. One can also opt to travel to the main gate in an auto (INR 10 each) which we did to ease it out on my parents after having breakfast at a retired army officers’ colorful house converted to shop to hotel.
Buddhist Temple built by the Lankans
          There is a Buddhist temple outside the main gate built by the Buddhist Federation of Sri Lanka having paintings on the life of Buddha. When we got there, two head monks were giving a discourse in Hindi and Marathi too!! At the main gate, one can get access to a guide or one can also opt for a self guided audio tool. At areas of importance which are marked by a symbol, one can hear the importance of the monument from the audio device – quite impressive. The area is well maintained and very clean. It would be a picture perfect to see monks meditating or walking around the stupas but we didn’t see any.
There are many unfinished structures. You have to walk a bit to get to the second stupa which has a lake beside it. The gardens are beautifully maintained and the monument and its carvings well preserved. There is a statue of a meditating Buddha with its head missing! The carvings with its elephants, processions, nymphs, pot bellied soldiers, beautiful floral designs, Ashokas’ tigers are very interesting and beautiful. They depict stories of yesteryear's, of important events, of the sculptors love and imagination for the Supreme!
The Stupas, hemispheric buildings are basically the burial grounds of Buddhist gurus. Most of the Stupas have carved toranas around them.
          I simply loved the place. It has PEACE and tranquility written all over it – a place to delve inside, close your eyes and meditate, to try and be closer to HIM! Please feel the vibes as you travel around this place, imagine, let go and let the serenity touch you and get in to you.
Sanchi is a MUST visit place if you are in or around Bhopal!!
If you have time on your hands, do visit the Udaigiri Caves which is just 9 kms away. I couldn’t!!
          The journey back was not that pleasant. Had a couple of fights in the bus with erratic and manner less travelers.
Tourist pointers:
  • Getting there: If you have your own vehicle, you can club Sanchi with another tourist destination of your choice in a day, probably the ‘Van Vihar’ in Bhopal. If you don’t have your vehicle, train is preferable and the last option should be bus. I guess the last train from Sanchi to Bhopal is at around 16:30. Please enquire at the stations.
  • Keep 2-3 hrs at the least to enjoy the place and take in the serenity.
  • You can get books on Sanchi, on Buddhism and other tourist destinations in MP at the main temple.
  • Sanchi is one of the cleanest destinations in MP, so leave it that way and try not to touch the statues and carvings.
  • Eating Joints: Just a few steps from the station, towards the right is the vegetable market. Walk through the alley and it opens up to an open space where you get a couple of eating joints which serve veg and non-veg stuff. The other proper hotel is somewhere on the highway.
  • Places to stay: If you are not stationed at Habibaganj or Bhopal, the other options near Sanchi are Sambodhi International on the Bhopal-Sanchi road, Bauddha Rest House and Circuit House on the Stattion and Stupa Road respectively, Travellers Lodge on the Vidisha Road. Please make enquiries before landing up!!
  • A little away: Visit Udaygiri caves, 9 kms away. One can also take a trip to Raisen or Vidisha, though not sure if theres much to see
Sanchi Facts:
  • Samrat Ashoka was married to the daughter of a merchant at Vidisha. Most of the structures like the Stupas, Chaityas and Monasteries are built by him during his reign for the propagation of Buddhism after he was moved from within post the massacre at the Kalinga war and he vowed not to fight any more wars.
  • The Toranas (gateways) carry depictions of the Jataka stories revolving round the life of the Buddha.
  • When Lord Buddha left his physical body, his bone relics were coveted by kings. Sensing the possibility of wars over these relics, sage Drona divided the relics into 8 parts and the kings built Stupas on these relics. Later, Ashoka, the Great, opened up 7 of these and distributed the Buddhas relics to construct 84,000 stupas in his kingdom. Stupa No. 1 of Sanchi is one of them.
  • Lord Buddha never visited Sanchi!

Sanchi Station upar upar ek...bas apply now break!!
Beautiful carvings

Of Kings and horses and elephants...
Coronation of the King!!

Couple in the park

Stupa 2
Attaining Bliss!!

Near the view point

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