Travel Shot: The Pandava Temple at Lohargal

Around this time last year, I visited Lohargal in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan in search of a stepwell. I found the stepwell or Chetan Das ki Baoli, And along the way also stumbled upon a temple dedicated to the Pandavas, with a very interesting story attached to it.

The Pandava temple (shrine would actually be a more appropriate word) is on one side of the narrow pathway that leads to the main and ancient temple, dedicated to the sun. I would not have given this shrine, whose walls are covered with subway tiles, a second look if the priest hadn’t called out to me and told me to stop. I did out of politeness and was glad that I did for I had never seen or heard of a Pandava temple in worship till then.

Lohargal, Shekhawati, Rajasthan. Travel, Pandavas, Mahabharata

Krishna flanked by Yudhishtra and Arjuna

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Museum Treasure: Silk Money of Khorezm

Q: What does a country do if there is a shortage of paper to print currency?

A: No problem. They print currency on a material they have in abundance.

When the rulers of Khiva of the Khorezm Province in Uzbekistan faced paper shortage at the beginning of the 19th century, they turned to a material they had in abundance —Silk, which was used to print currency of large denominations

Silk Money, Khorezm, Uzbekistan, Museum Exhibit

Silk Money or currency printed on silk

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Goodbye 2015, Hello 2016

2015 has been a strange year, a tad surreal even.

It has been a year of fulfilling long-held dreams, exciting travel experiences, great perspective shifting books read, poor health thanks to my allergies, unexpected happiness and loss, achievements and opportunities lost, friends made and lost… among others. But most of all it has been a year of serendipity. A year where attending an event led me to take a decision that I now know has enriched my life in immeasurable ways and has imperceptibly changed it too.

On January 25, 2015, I attended a session on “Why a Library of Classical Indian Literature?” at the Jaipur Literature Festival, which had Sheldon Pollock as a speaker. I chose to attend this for two reasons — (ii) my niece had a lot of good things to say about Pollock’s writings, and (ii) the idea of a library of classical Indian literature was intriguing. To say that the session was great and Sheldon Pollock inspiring is a huge understatement, but what it did was to rekindle a desire to study classical Indian literature and art in a formal and structured setting.

Back home in Mumbai, I enrolled for the PG Diploma Programme in Indian Aesthetics conducted by Jnanapravaha. (I must add here that I had known about this course for about 2 years and had been dithering over joining it.) Classes began in July and at this point, I’m half-way through the programme. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the programme has raised more questions than given answers that I sought. And I mean this in the best possible way as I think, read and research into Indian Classical Art. In other words, I’m still feeling my way around.😛

That was 2015.

I don’t know what 2016 has in store for me, but I hope that it will be enriching. I begin 2016 with some travel to new destinations, which have been influenced by the programme I’m enrolled in. One of them is Mahabalipuram, which I visited in 1997 at a time when I neither understood its relevance or its beauty. I hope I can do both this time around. Watch this space for more.:)

Mahabalipuram, World Heritage Site, UNESCO, Film Camera, Travel

Mahabalipuram, May 1997. Apologies for the poor quality scanned photograph

Happy New Year, dear friend. Thank you for reading, commenting, writing, sharing, appreciating. Wish you the very best that 2016 has in store.

Before you go, I’d like to know what was the most important event in 2015 for you? And what are you looking forward to the most in 2016? Do share with me in the comments section of this post.

Cheers:)


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A city called Nukus

Nukus was my first halt in Uzbekistan. The 6th largest city of the country, it is the capital of Karakalpakstan, an autonomous region within Uzbekistan. Karakalpakstan covers a third of the area of Uzbekistan, which includes a major portion of the Ustyurt Plateau, and the Kyzyl-Kum Desert. The Amu Darya river is the lifeline of the region and flows through the city of Nukus.

Nukus is not known for its tourist attractions, but there was a reason I visited this city. More about that at the end of the post. It is located about 1000 km northwest of Tashkent, or a two-and-a half-hour journey by air from there by a propeller-driven plane, like the one in the photograph below.

Hukus, Tashkent Domestic Airport, Propeller PlaneHukus, Tashkent Domestic Airport, Propeller PlaneWhen I saw the propeller-driven planes waiting on the tarmac of the Tashkent Domestic Airport, I got all excited as I had never flown in one. But 5 minutes into flying, I was reaching for ear plugs for they were incredibly noisy. It didn’t help that my window overlooked one of the propellers.

Once the initial excitement of the propeller plane had worn off, the flight was uneventful and monotonous, just like the landscape on ground below. Apart from a road or two or a cluster of dwellings, I didn’t see anything to break the sandy ground below.

Nukus itself arrived rather suddenly and if I didn’t feel the plane descending, I wouldn’t have known that we had arrived. It is only later that I found out that the city is quite spread out and away from the airport, and one of the reasons why I didn’t see anything from the air.

When I landed at the rather small and quaint Nukus Airport on that September morning, I had been travelling (or waiting for a connecting flight) for almost 20 hours, and sleep deprived for even longer. It had been a long journey from humid Mumbai, to hot Delhi to cold Tashkent to dry and arid Nukus. I should have been sleepy and tired, but thanks to the numerous cups of coffee and excitement at finally being in Uzbekistan, I was not only awake, but also alert and ready to explore.:)

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Dear Uzbekistan

Many, many years ago there was once a quiet, little girl who was happiest among books, especially picture books. She hadn’t yet learned to read, and would always be asking her family members to explain what she was ‘reading’.

One day, her father came home with a stack of magazines. The little girl went through them all, one by one. She was particularly mesmerised by the cover of one of the magazines. It had a picture of a blue dome against an even bluer sky, and she liked it so much that she wanted to see the dome for real.

Uzbekistan, Samarkand, Samarqand, Blue ribbed domeShe went up to her father and told him of her intention. Her father looked at the magazine cover and said, “This is in a place called Samarqand. You want to go to there?”

The girl nodded.

“It’s quite far from here. Why don’t you wait till you are grown up?”

“Okay,” said the little girl. “I will go to Samarqand when I grow up.”

The years went by. The little girl grew up, the magazine got misplaced, her father passed away, but the blue dome of Samarqand and her dream of seeing it was not forgotten. Friends and family, who knew of this, would often ask when she was visiting Samarqand. Her answer always was, “I don’t know when. All I know is that one day I will.”

That day came four decades after she had first declared her intention to visit Samarqand. Last month, the now not-so-little girl made that trip to Samarqand and other places in Uzbekistan. There was a touch of the unreal when her plane landed in Tashkent and she couldn’t help but wonder if she was part of a dream. The fresh, cold air that hit her when she exited the aircraft convinced her that this was no dream, but the real thing !:)

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Summer of 1992

1992 was a very important year for me. A turning point, you could say. I can’t pinpoint to a particular moment or event for there were many that made the year so memorable. But two of them were really special and, interestingly (or maybe not !) both involved travel. It was not the kind of travel I do today; rather, it was travel for the purpose of study as part requirement of the Master’s programme in Geology I was pursuing at that time.

In May 1992, I arrived in Bhuj (in Kachchh district region of Gujarat) with AK, a classmate, to undertake a 15-day field trip for our Master’s dissertation in Geology. Though both of us were based in Bhuj, we had separate sites of field work (about 15 km away) and our field work was individual. We had a common faculty guide, who was to join us in Bhuj after about 10 days. This would have given us time to finish the bulk of our field work and present our preliminary findings to him.

I was quite excited as this was to be my first solo field trip — in the previous field trips I had been part of a larger group of classmates. Having a geological hammer, compass, and topographical map all to myself made me feel quite important. Not to mention grown-up and empowered as well !😛

Bhuj, Smainarayan Talav, Mandvi Road, Geology field work, Summer of 1992, Sudha Ganapathi

First day of field work in May 1992. Just look at how delighted I am !

The first day of field work was exhilarating and as perfect as a young geologist like me could hope for — excellent rock exposures, variety in rock structures and textures, fossils, some intriguing geological puzzles… It was also very distracting, but I soon settled down and within the next day or two established a field work routine.

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