Chawand- The Lost Capital City of Mewar

About 65 kms from the city of Udaipur lies the sleepy hamlet of Chawand. The place which has a great historical significance in the annals of Mewar, was once the capital of Mewar’s favourite son, the Rajput king, Maharana Pratap.

The history of Mewar and Chawand

The history of Mewar and Chawand

Surprisingly, though other places associated with the Maharana such as Haldighati and Kumbhalgarh are known the world over, the capital town which he himself built and from where he reigned over Mewar for nearly two decades from (1578 AD till his death in 1597 AD), has been pushed into the back pages of contemporary history.

Ruins of Chawand

Ruins of Chawand

On a sunny September Sunday, aided by Google map, we embarked on a journey to the lost capital.

There are two ways to reach Chawand, one that is via the state highway to Jaisamand and the other by the National Highway No 8 that connects Udaipur with Ahmedabad. We opted for the latter one.

The NH8 takes you through valleys and lush greenery and we sped on till we reached the town of Parshad about 50 kms from Udaipur. A detour through the heart of the town took us onto the Parshad-Chawand road. A rough patch of road initially, gave us the hiccups, but that soon gave way to a picturesque road winding through hills and water-bodies.

The picturesque NH8

The picturesque NH8

The main attractions of the town of Chawand (about 13 kms from Parshad) are the ruins of the Palace of Maharana Pratap and his cenotaph, which are on either side of a crossroad beyond the town of Chawand. We turned left and our first stop was the cenotaph of Maharana Pratap in the middle of the Kejad Lake.

The entrance to the Cenotaph of Maharana Pratap

The entrance gate of the road leading to the Cenotaph of Maharana Pratap

The Cenotaph in the middle of Lake Kejad

The Cenotaph in the middle of Lake Kejad

What a spectacle we were treated to?? A stone and cement bridge led us onto an island which has shady trees and beautiful “Chattris” and pavilions along its perimeter. In its centre is the final resting place of Mewar’s valiant Rajput king, who valued self respect and freedom more than all the riches of the world.

Chhatri on the island

Chhatri on the island

The scenic view of Lake Kejad

The scenic view of Lake Kejad

Up and close with Nature on the island

Up and close with Nature on the island

Though the Maharana Pratap’s cenotaph is not very impressive architecturally, you are engulfed by an overpowering sensation of awe as you bow in veneration in front of it. A king, who willfully chose a life full of struggles and hardships and sacrificed his life for the love of his beloved ‘Motherland’, indeed the experience for us at the cenotaph was indescribable.

The Central Cenotaph of Maharana Pratap

The Central Cenotaph of Maharana Pratap

The Final resting place of the Maharana

The final resting place of the Maharana

The entrance to the Palace of Maharana Pratap

The entrance to the Palace of Maharana Pratap

From the scenic Lake Kejad, we set off for the Palace of Maharana Pratap. On entering the main palace premise, a Chamunda (Hindu Mother Goddess) Temple that predates Maharana Pratap’s era and is much revered by the locals, is a major attraction. Two ferocious stone lions on either side of the entrance of the temple are a source of fascination for children.

A Lion statue- a hit with kids

A Lion statue- a hit with kids

The Chamunda Temple

The Chamunda Temple

The presiding deity

The presiding deity

A steep walkway takes you to the ruins of the palace of Maharana Pratap. Some stone structures are what is left of the palace of the great king. Standing on the remnants of the palace, you get a great view of vast expanse of greenery, the Chamunda Temple and a statue of Maharana Pratap on a pedestal on an adjoining hillock.

A side entrance to the ruins

A side entrance to the ruins

The ruins of the palace

The ruins of the palace

Statue of Maharana Pratap on an adjoining hill

Statue of Maharana Pratap on an adjoining hill

After a thoroughly enjoyable, day in Chawand, it was time for us to say goodbye. But as we bid goodbye to the precincts of the palace, a metal statue of the Maharana stood as though blessing us for having visited and explored his capital, a town that has been lost in the pages of contemporary history.

The statue of the Maharana as though blessing us for visiting Chawand

The statue of the Maharana as though blessing us for visiting Chawand

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Lake Jaisamand- A Quick Getaway from Udaipur

The Magnificent Lake Jaisamand

The Magnificent Lake Jaisamand

Udaipur is known  the world over as the city of lakes and the city palace and the adjoining Lake Pichola have provided backdrop for many a movie, both Hollywood as well as Bollywood. Even Lake Fatehsagar, the favorite haunt of the locals is a featured destination.

But the biggest of them all is the majestic Lake Jaisamand, which is located at a distance of around 50 odd kms from Udaipur city. Also known as Dhevar Lake, it is, in fact, the second largest artificial lake in Asia covering an area of about 90 sq kms.

The bund made by Maharana Jai Singh

The bund made by Maharana Jai Singh

Jaisamand Lake has a very colourful history. It was built by Maharana Jai Singh of the House of Mewar in 1685 AD, who emulated his illustrious father Maharana Raj Singh, who constructed the imposing Rajsamand Lake in present day Rajsamand district. The lake was built when Maharana Jai Singh made a dam on river Gomati with an aim to channelize the waters of the river for irrigation as well as providing drinking water for his subjects. In fact, even today pipelines bring in water from Jaisamand that quench thirst of a large part of the city of Udaipur. These huge pipelines can be seen running adjacent to the road that connects Udaipur with Jaisamand.

The densely wooded Kewre Ki Naal

The densely wooded Kewre Ki Naal

The picturesque route

The picturesque route

The ride from Udaipur to Jaisamand is a very scenic one, which crisscrosses through dense jungles, picturesque valleys, quaint water bodies and just about bypasses The Jaisamand Wildlife Sanctuary. If you are lucky enough, you could spot wild animals including panthers, in the area around Kewre Ki Naal, a protected biosphere.

The imposing Roothi Rani Ka Mahal

The imposing Roothi Rani Ka Mahal

As you approach the hamlet of Jaisamand, the imposing ‘Roothi Rani Ka Mahal’, a beautiful palace on top of a hill overlooking the Jaisamand Lake, is a sight to behold. To reach the Lake, you have to climb up a long winding steep road. At the base of this road, is a bazaar which has shops selling snacks like pakodas, chai, samosas, katchoris and fried fresh fish from the lake.

The beautiful embankment or 'bund'

The beautiful embankment or ‘bund’

The Shiva Temple and the Palace on the hill in the background

The Shiva Temple and the Palace on the hill in the background

The beautiful marble Bund of the lake

The stepped Bund of the lake

The Lone Sentinel- White marble elephant

The Lone Sentinel- White marble elephant on the embankment

The embankment or the ‘bund’ of the lake is a white marble marvel and is adorned by 6 chhatris or dome like pillared marble structures with exquisite carvings, a Shiva temple and white marble elephants that overlook the vast expanse of water, standing in testimony of a glorious era gone by.

Row Row Row your boat...

Row Row Row your boat…

Hawa Mahal or the Palace of Winds on a hillock

Hawa Mahal or the Palace of Winds on a hillock

Land Ahoy!

Land Ahoy!

Jaisamand Lake has 3 big islands and is also home to the famed Jaisamand Island Resort. Boats leave regularly from the ‘bund’ and you can choose from a variety of ticket options. The Rs 20/- per person ticket is the most economical one and takes you around a stretch of the lake that has a palace, known as ‘Hawa Mahal’ or the Palace of The Wind on a lush forested hillock on the banks of the lake. You can also avail of Rs 50/, Rs 75, Rs 100 or Rs 200/- rides which take you further and further into the wonderful lake towards the bigger islands that are home to the Bhils and Meena, the indigenous tribals of the region.

In Nature's own lap.

In Nature’s own lap.

If you are looking forward for a quick day getaway from Udaipur, then Lake Jaisamand definitely deserves a place in your list. A place which is a culmination of soothing rides, magnificent architectural wonders dripping with history, all in Mother Nature’s own lap.

Bhilwara-The Textile Town of India

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Railway Station-Bhilwara

Railway Station-Bhilwara

About 165 kms away from Udaipur on the Chittorgarh-Ajmer-Jaipur highway lies, Bhilwara, the town made famous by the teeming textile mills that have resulted in it being bestowed with the epitaph the “Manchester of India”.

Tribal women on the roads of Bhilwara

Tribal women on the roads of Bhilwara

The origin of the name “Bhilwara” is obscure and there are many variants to why the town is called Bhilwara. But the most widely believed version is that once the town was inhabited primarily by the indigenous tribals of the region, the Bhils, who were subsequently vanquished by the settlers. In present day Bhilwara, the original citizens are a minuscule minority with the “Maheshwaris” and other business classes being the dominant groups.

The roads of Bhilwara

The roads of Bhilwara

On the whole the city, especially the older part, is quite well planned as most of the roads are connected to traffic roundabouts (“chourahas”) which further lead to more roundabouts and getting your way through the city is that much simpler.

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Chaos on the roads

But the traffic is chaotic and the traffic sense of the people even more so. You would be tempted to thank your stars even after conducting a basic thing like crossing the road, successfully.

Roundabouts of Bhilwara

Roundabouts of Bhilwara

Since, Bhilwara basically is an industrial and business town, the places of attraction in the city are few. One place that caught my fancy and is a wonderful place to visit if you are, even a little bit, religiously inclined and love serenity, is the temple of Harni Mahadev, a temple dedicated to the Hindu God of destruction, Lord Shiva.

The majestic outer entrance of the Harni Mahadev Temple-Bhilwara

The outer entrance gate of the Harni Mahadev Temple-Bhilwara

Located at a distance of around 6kms from the city in the village of Harni, the temple of Harni Mahadev is neither overwhelming nor awe-inspiring from the outside. In fact the entire temple complex is very simple and frugal in appearance. But lo, as you enter the main temple, the sight of the natural Shiva Linga beneath an uncut natural solid rock is a spectacle to behold and fills you with a religious fervor. The Linga of Mahadev has idols of the entire Shiva family for company and you could even bath the deities with water that is kept in buckets the sanctum of the temple.

The entrance to the main temple of Harni Mahadev

The entrance to the main temple of Harni Mahadev

 

The Shivalinga of Harni Mahadev beneath an uncut rock

The Shivalinga of Harni Mahadev beneath an uncut rock

Harni Mahadev is the ancestral temple of the Darak family of Bhilwara, who are one of the richest and most influential families of the textile city. The temple complex buzzes with devotees during Maha Shivaratri and “Sawan” month when more than 10 lac people visit the temple in 3 days.

A serpent shaped religious structure outside the Harni Mahadev temple

A serpent shaped religious structure outside the Harni Mahadev temple

Just outside the Harni Mahdev temple is a unique temple that is shaped in the form of a serpent around a Shiva Linga. This structure sure is an attraction of the place, especially for young kids.

Roadside non-veg joints near Railway station

Roadside non-veg joints near Railway station

Bhilwara could be a difficult place, if you are a carnivore by your eating habits. There are a very limited number of restaurants that serve you non-vegetarian dishes. Some roadside joints in the Muslim dominated area around the City railway station provide you with some delicious non-veg street food but if you are looking for some great non-vegetarian fine dining experience, you would be thoroughly disappointed. The roof top restaurant of Hotel Ranbanka is probably the only place where you could have decent food to satiate your carnivorous taste buds.

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But connoisseurs of vegetarian food are spoilt for choice in the textile city. Mughlai, Continental, Chinese, Indian, Fusion and street food, you name it and it is all available in Bhilwara. People throng street side stalls that sell katchoris, samosas, pakodis with kadi and also go to restaurants like Saffron that serve you multi-cuisine vegetarian dishes. Even a small shop near the city railway station that sells buttered buns and tea, is full round the clock. A neat swanky restaurant, again near the railway station by the unimaginative name PFC (Priya Food and Continental) and Amit Palace Hotel on the Ajmer Road has an amazing variety of Continental cuisine on offer besides the regular Indian fare.

A terrific fusion sizzler at PFC, Bhilwara

A terrific fusion sizzler at PFC, Bhilwara

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Delicious Indian fare at Saffron restaurant

After meals, if you like to munch on a betel leaf, popularly known as “paan”, then Bhilwara has a very special place on offer, the JBB Pan Corner. Here you can get a variety of Paans, that range from INR 15/- to a mind boggling INR 1500/- per piece.

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JBB Pan Corner near Bus Stand

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The rate list- From Rs 15 to Rs 1500/-

All in all if you are a veggie, then Bhilwara sure could be a foodie’s paradise.

In a nutshell, the city of Bhilwara, in itself might not be very attractive at first look but it sure is a place that grows on you overtime…….

 

The Holi Escape (Part-4)- The wonders of Moti Daman

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In 1498, long before the conquest of India by the British, the sea route to India was discovered by the Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama, which led to Portuguese colonial expansions in Asia. The Portuguese established many colonies in India, the most notable ones being Goa, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Diu and Daman.

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Moti Daman is separated from the Nani Daman area of Daman by the Rajiv Gandhi Setu on the Daman Ganga river (as already put forth in a previous post). This area houses some marvelous old Portuguese colonial architectural wonders and takes you back in time. The Fort of Moti Daman is the predominant structure here overlooking the Arabian Sea and most of the gems of Moti Daman are nestled within its bosom. The fort in itself is massive and has 2 gateways and 10 bastions with a moat encompassing it.

Following are some of the wonders that we came across in and around the magnificent Fort of Moti Daman during our wanderings.

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1) Church of Bom Jesus- As you enter the fort of Moti Daman through the main gateway, passing lush beautiful gardens, you are quite literally transported into a glorious era gone by. The first structure that greets you, inside the fort is the Church of Bom Jesus. The facade of the church is not too inspiring, but lo as you enter it, the exquisiteness of the very well preserved wooden work inside the church, leaves you awe-struck. The church as we see it today, was re-constructed in 1603 and has been a place of worship since February 02, 1559 which is more than 455 years. Though the church is past its glory, it still stands proudly in testimony to its wonderful past.

 

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2) Jampore Beach- Further south of Moti Daman (3kms approx) is the Jampore Beach. This beach is much better and less crowded than the Devka beach in Nani Daman and offers you a plethora of options to indulge in. On one end of the beach, it is not uncommon to find a number of fishing trawlers dropping anchor before they again set out to fish. The beach itself is quite broad and during the low tide you can walk miles into the sea. The beach has shacks, courtesy the tourism department which serve you some lip smacking sea food and also drinks. You could even go for a horse ride or the more adventurous can make their adrenalin flow by partaking in speed boat rides and para-sailing.

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3) The Old Light House- Back inside the fort of Moti Daman is an old light house overlooking the creek of Daman Ganga and the Arabian Sea. Built in the late 19th century, the light house that served as a beacon of hope to ships in distress, today is a major tourist attraction and a favorite haunt for picnickers. Some narrow winding solid stone stairs lead you to the light house, the view from which of the sea and beyond is mesmerizing.

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4) Secretariat- The Fort of Moti Daman used to be the seat of power during the Portuguese colonial rule. It still remains the seat of power, as the beautiful Secretariat located within the fort manages the administration of the quaint Union Territory of Daman and Diu. The building, that exudes an old world colonial charm, coupled with the dainty narrow roads within the fort, are just some of the wonders of Moti Daman, that we were able to enjoy, on that day, which incidently was the day, the festival of Holi was being celebrated all over India.

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The Holi Escape (Part-3)- Food and Sights of Nani Daman

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The area of Nani Daman and Devka Beach are a gastronomic paradise. Numerous restaurants and cafes are found in and around the beach which offer you some delectable sea food and an unparalleled view, that gets magnified during the high tide. Chilling out here acquires a completely new dimension. A bottle of chilled beer with a plethora of sea food for snacks is enough to beat the heat into oblivion.

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After the short break (as per my previous post), we started off our journey of Daman or rather Nani Daman to be more precise, in search of gastronomic bliss. Our first stop was the in-house, sea facing restaurant of Hotel Princess Park, Cafe High Tide, right on the Devka Beach. We actually went there just to enjoy the sights that the sea which was virtually kissing the Cafe, had on offer. But the cool strong breeze and the sound of the waves, tempted us into having our lunch there. And we sure weren’t disappointed.

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Chilled Kingfisher strong with amazing crispy fried chicken set the tone for the rest of our lunch. We had over the next day and a half, a variety of dishes at Cafe High Tide, from sea food specialties like Prawn Goan Curry, Prawn Gauti to chicken preparations like Baked Chicken, Red Chicken and Afghani Chicken. Needless to say, every item was outstanding. Our first tryst with gastronomic destiny in Daman was an overwhelming success.

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If our lunches were great successes then our dinners were a mixed bag. We had heard a lot about the sea food of Hotel Gurukripa, which is on the narrow busy main road that leads you onto the beach of Nani Daman. So for our first dinner at Daman, we decided to pay it a visit. Parking the car at the hotel itself was next to impossible, so our driver parked it at the beach itself and we strolled along for 5 odd minutes, in great anticipation, to Hotel Gurukripa. The dimly lit restaurant had a LED TV which was telecasting live cricket. We were greeted by the cheerful restaurant manager and on his recommendation, we ordered ghol fish tikka, prawn biryani, a sea food platter and caramel pudding for dessert. Barring the caramel pudding, the rest were just run of the mill and the bill at the end of our meal,made it a huge diner’s disappointment for us. The highly recommended exorbitantly priced ghol fish tikka came last in our taste check or is it that one has to develop a taste for the fish before trying it, I would not know.

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If our first dinner in Daman was a disaster, the second one was more than a delight. Oliajis’ Duke Hotel is right on the main road of Devka Beach. A nondescript old board announced that the hotel was established in 1936 and serves delicious Parsee food. The restaurant has a very laid back ambiance laced with an old world charm. The menu of this family run joint was not very elaborate but whatever they had in it was mostly authentic Parsee cuisine. We ordered Golden crisp fried prawns, roasted chicken (BBQ), Patrani Macchi, Mutton Dhansak, Salli Chicken, Egg on Keema and rotis. The taste was super and the bill, very nominal and our overall experience was WoW..

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Our gastronomic journey being an undeclared success, my next post will deal with the wonderful sights of Daman, more specifically the old area of Moti Daman…

(to be continued)

The Holi Escape (Part-2)-Daman

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The west Indian city of Daman is part of the union territory of Daman and Diu which were in turn part of the Portuguese colonial territories of Goa, Daman and Diu. Absorbed into the Indian union in December 1961, after a short skirmish between the Indian and the Portuguese troops, Daman today is a popular tourist destination on account of the sea, sun, food and fun (read- lots of free flowing alcohol, in stark contrast to the prohibition in the neighboring state of Gujarat).

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The drive from Baroda to Daman took us through the industrial heartland of Gujarat as we passed through the textile city of Surat and the chemical hub of Ankeleshwar on towards Vapi.

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The road was excellent and the countryside was lush and green, dotted with intermittent water bodies that irrigated the farms. It took us about three and a half hours to cover the distance of about 300 odd kilometers and we were at last into the gates of Hotel Princess Park, Nani Daman, our retreat for the next two days. The hotel was right on the edges of the Arabian Sea and the rooms offered majestic view of the sea and the beach (if you could call the beach, a beach).

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The city of Daman is divided into two by the Daman Ganga river, Moti Daman and Nani Daman. Moti Daman has the Jampore beach and Nani Daman has the Devka Beach and the Princess Park hotel was bang on the Devka Beach. The beach and the sea at Daman, though is quite unlike any other sea and beach, I have ever seen. Devka beach, which is very dull, rocky and blackish in color, is not at all tempting and the sea itself is pretty shallow. The amazing part of it all is that, it seemed as though the sea works in shifts (pun intended). Everyday, by 2 pm in the afternoon, the sea came gushing almost into the restaurant of the Princess Park hotel, aptly named Cafe High Tide and then the water receded, only to come back with a vengeance by 2 am at night.

The sea far off from Hotel Princess Park

The sea far off from Hotel Princess Park, Devka Beach, Nani Daman

The sea on the edge of Hotel Princess Park, Daman

The sea on the edge of Hotel Princess Park, Devka Beach, Nani Daman

We retired to our respective rooms for a short break to rejuvenate ourselves fully so that we could embark upon, to act on our intent to explore the tastes and places that Daman had on offer for us.

(to be continued)

 

The Holi Escape (Part-1)- To Baroda

Cometh, the festival of colours, Holi and it is time for me and my family to take a break from our routine in the Lake City of Udaipur and venture into new territories. If last year, it was Mount Abu in Rajasthan, this time around we zeroed onto the idyllic west Indian union territory of Daman. The distance of Daman from Udaipur is about 600 kms, so it was unanimously decided that we would have a night halt at Vadodara (previously known as Baroda) in Gujarat, as winding up things at Udaipur, we could only have left home, earliest by late afternoon. Thus, two days prior to the Holi festival, on a blazing Saturday afternoon (15th March 2014), we set off for Baroda, as we planned our Holi Escape.

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The NH8 that connects New Delhi to Mumbai, which in turn connects Udaipur to Ahmedabad, makes its way across the hills of the Aravali ranges. Trees with blooming local red flowers, dotted the slopes of the hills and provided for a very picturesque beginning to our travel, as we took a detour from the NH8, after entering the state of Gujarat.

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The state highway to Modasa and beyond was equally scenic and was in fact in a better shape than even the national highway. The rural countryside adjoining the highway showed glimpses of prosperity and we crossed hamlets after hamlets as we made our way towards Baroda.

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We covered the distance of about 315 kms from Udaipur to Baroda (via Modasa) in about 5 hours that included a stoppage for snacks and refreshments at a way-side restaurant where we had tea, Idli-sambar and Mango lassi. We had prior bookings made at the Hotel Sapphire Regency, Sayaji Gunj for our night in Baroda.

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Right at the city centre near the Vadodara Railway station, the Hotel Sapphire Regency provided for a very cozy stay in Baroda. Its highlight was its gastronomically amazing restaurant “Cafe Khyber”. The neat fine dining restaurant was nearly full when we went there for our dinner. We ordered vegetable noodles (for my kid) and chicken angarey for starters. For the main course we had Chicken Afghani, Murg Mussallam, buttered Naan and white rice. The food was exceptional, lip smacking and complete money’s worth (made more so by the 15% discount that was applicable for Axis Bank cardholders).  We retired to our rooms, very gastronomically as well as economically satisfied.

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The next morning being a Sunday morning, my father and me went in search for any temple that was in the vicinity of the hotel. We found a small and simple temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha, the Hindu God of Wisdom, in the nearby lane. After prayers, we went for a stroll and discovered some old architectural gems that were still there, standing proudly in a landscape that is being fast inundated with modern buildings and complexes.

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After a sumptuous breakfast at Cafe Khyber, Hotel Sapphire Regency, it was time for us to set off for our next and final destination of Daman….

(to be continued)