Thursday, January 17, 2019

Income Based Reservation - A Master stroke right before general elections

Narendra Modi led BJP government is known to take unexpected turns. De-monetization, buying Rafael off the shelf etc. are good examples for that. A couple of days back, government took another such decision which gives 10% reservation to economically weaker sections of Indian society regardless of their caste or religion. Everything happened so fast and 124th constitution amendment bill was bulldozed through both houses of parliament with hardly any discussion (or in any select committee or in any other committee for that matter).

124th amendment bill made modifications to fundamental rights in Article 15 and 16. As the constitution doesn’t provide provision for reservation based on economic condition/income these changes were essential.

1. Bill amends Article 15 to permit government to provide for the advancement of “economically weaker sections”.  Further, up to 10% of seats may be reserved for such sections for admission in educational institutions.  Such reservations will not apply to minority educational institutions.

2. Amendments to Article 16 to permit the government to reserve up to 10% of all posts for the “economically weaker sections” of citizens.

3. Reservation of up to 10% for “economically weaker sections” in educational institutions and public employment will be in addition to the existing reservation.

4. Central government will notify the “economically weaker sections” of citizens on the basis of family income and other indicators of economic disadvantage.

In order to qualify for this reservation, a family should,

1. Have an annual income of less than Rs.8 lakhs, or
2. Own less than five acres of farmland, or
3. Have a house lesser than 1,000 sq. feet in a town (or 100 sq. yard in a notified municipal area).

The efficiency with which the bill went through both houses of parliament is something which even then the private sector can only dream.

I would rather prefer huge government investment in education sector, rather than reservations in jobs. I believe education is one of the few sectors where government should own the institutions.
However, I don’t have much objections to reservations for economically backward sections. After all, it’s far better blindly following caste-based reservations. Caste-based reservation indeed changed so many things in India. This affirmative action brought new section of people to the front line of Indian society. However, it hardly made a dent in the social system.

Now you might give me examples for places where backward untouchable people raised from ashes and reached the vanguard of society. Well, it’s true; but if we take it in full context, rather than reservations it’s the powerful social upheaval of the time led by visionary leaders which made the changes. Sri Narayana Guru and Chattambi Swamy led social movements in Kerala is one such glaring example.

Even though voices are raiscenturies-old old system is still prevailing in huge swaths of Hindi belt. Neither more than seven-decade old reservation system nor conventional education was able to eradicate that.

Irony is, to get reservations numerous otherwise forward communities in Gujrat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Maharashtra etc. at the forefront of multiple strikes.

Government’s decision was indeed a masterstroke. Hardly anyone expected this one; more than that hardly any party could object this policy change in public. Well, the government had to do some populist item before general elections. Previously everyone tried farm loan waiver. Now it became a new normal. Everyone now a days expect a farm loan waiver right before state and general elections. It lost its novelty. Less than expected GST income, fiscal responsibility rules, controversy in shifting RBI reserves, huge NPAs in the banking sector created other barriers for a general farm loan waiver.

What I find distressing in 124th amendment for reservations to economically backward section is,

1. The speed with which it went through both houses of parliament. This amendment involves changes to some of the basic rights of Indian citizens. It should have debated properly. Is debate on bills in parliament is slowly becoming a memory?

2. 10% reservation to economically backward sections will break supreme court rule which prohibits overall reservation above 50%.

3. Income required to qualify for this reservation is pretty much higher. Even after demonetization (which increased formalization of the economy), a good percentage of Indian economy operates outside government lens. Who will decide who is eligible for reservation? On paper everyone can show an income under 8 lakhs (expect those who gets income only through salary from organized sector).

4. Its going to open a pandora's box. If the amendment went through SC then most powerful communities Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana, Rajasthan etc. may become more vocal in their demands. After all, the sacred limit of 50% will be broken. As the old saying goes, once you crossed the Rubicon there is no turning back.

Let’s wait and watch whether 124th amendment will go through SC.

Sajeev

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Northern Sojourn Day X: Omkareshwar

Indore was the last destination in my journey. On that cold morning, my train reached Indore junction at breakfast time. I was visiting Indore for second time. Unfortunately, like my first trip, there wasn’t much time left to see the city before I catch my next train to Bangalore - Just 12 hours.

I had to make a choice - either I roam around the city or go to Omkareshwar. After much thinking, I chose the latter. Unpacked my bag at railway’s retiring room, took a bath and went to bus stand.

Omkareshwar jyotirlinga temple is 80kms away from Indore. Even after adjusting for delays, I thought I had enough time for a round trip. I boarded an old bus and waited for it to start. 

After some thirty minutes its engine woke up and spat thick black smoke to air. This continued for a while. Slowly we left city limits and entered a highway. After a while, bus stopped near a local hotel so that travelers can have some food. Right after leaving from there we quickly came to a grinding halt. It took some two hours to traverse next three kilometers in super slow motion. If this traffic jam continues, then I might have to get down there and head back to Indore. Finally, after three long hours bus crossed that stretch and we regained the speed. 

We continued our journey through not so populated, dry areas. Around lunch time our bus reached Omkareshwar bus stand. From there shared autos were available to reach temple. I also jumped in to one such auto, travelled couple of kilometers and got down at river side. 

Omkareshwar jyotirlinga is located on the other bank of Narmada. I walked towards the river and reached boat jetty. From here pilgrims can take boats to reach the other side. I approached one such boat and enquired about the cost. Just to travel a small stretch (here river is very narrow), that also in a fully loaded boat they are charging 100!!! 

Suddenly I saw a bridge a little downstream. Used that one to reach the other side and walked towards the temple. What I saw next was a little disappointing – a long queue. If I joined the queue, there was no way I could reach Indore on time. Unexpectedly, I met one priest and he asked whether I want to go in directly without standing in the queue? I said yes. Then he told about special ticket and asked me to go along with him. I don’t remember how much I paid for that special ticket (in fact I didn’t get any printed ticket, so the money might have gone to his pocket).

On the way, he gave me a bucket full of water and walked fast towards sanctum. I followed. After reaching sanctum, he went to one side and asked me to go in. I was confused - whether to go inside or not? Because the entry queue was on the other side, and where I am standing was the exit. He told me to go on and pour the water on Jyotirlinga. I went in and did exactly as he told and came back. Suddenly, I had a doubt; did I see Jyotirlinga properly? Certainly not. After coming all the way – I don’t know whether I go to Indore again – going back without seeing the idol didn’t sound good. Hence, I went back and after a struggle saw Omkareshwar Mahadev and came back. By the way, even without paying him I think I could have gone through that way!!!
It won’t be true If I said I came back. In fact, I met that priest again, and he asked me to come to another side. I followed. He asked me to sit at a place. I did. He also sat there and started pooja. During the pooja he asked so many questions. 

If any priest from North/ Central/ East/ West India is reading this article, let me tell you something. Most of us from South (I don’t claim all) hardly have any concept of gothram and certainly we don’t remember the stars and months in Saka Calendar. We have our own calendars (even that we hardly remember!!!)  May be an astrologer might be able to tell. Hence, I ended up saying many ‘I don’t know’ as answers. 

Let me remind you about another incident which happened in Baroda railway station. Here I met a guy coming from Mumbai. He studied in BITS and currently working in Tata Chemicals. He was on his way to Delhi and stopped at Baroda to board another train. There he asked my name, I told. Then he asked my second name. I was a bit confused, to that day apart from filling government forms no one specifically asked for my second name. I always used initials. Well, I told him. He was more confused after hearing that. To this day I don’t know why he asked. Only logical explanation I can think of is, he wants to know about my caste. Well, I never used caste name, and from my second name one can’t figure out the caste. I may be wrong but that was the only explanation I was able to come up with, considering the context.
After pooja’s he asked me for dakshina. I enquired how much. He told me whatever I like. Then he suggested some figure close to thousand. That was another shock. Finally, dakshina came down to couple of hundreds. To this day, I don’t even know what that pooja was for. However, I am thankful to for showing a way to see the Jyotirlinga. 

Using bridge, I crossed back and went to temples on other side. Fortunately, there was a bus about to depart to Indore.  

On the way back, traffic came to a halt when we reached ghat section. It took hours to cross that stretch. 

Right after getting down at Indore bus stand, I ran towards railway station. Clock struck 8.20 PM. The person in charge of retiring rooms was very angry. As per him another customer was waiting and already complained about the delay in getting the room to higher ups. I didn’t see any one waiting there for the room. In any case I apologized for taking extra 20 minutes and vacated it immediately. 

While walking towards platform I wondered; due to delays by railways I lost one day in this journey, had to stay in a city which was not in plan, put my Jaipur trip in jeopardy. Millions of Indians are losing so many hours every day. Shouldn’t we also be angry with Railways? Anyway, it’s for another day another time.

Sajeev

Notes: Omkareshwar

Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga temple is in an island known as Mandhata in Narmada River. This place falls in Khandwa district of Madya Pradesh (approximately 80 kms from Indore town; 20 km from Mortakka). The island is 2.6 km2 in area and can be reached by boats and a narrow bridge.

Jyotirlinga temples are the most important Shiva temples. There are 12 Jyotirlinga temples,

1.   Viswanath (Varanasi- UP),
2.   Somnath (Gujarat),
3.   Nageswar (Dwarka - Gujarat)
4.   Mallikarjuna (Srisailam - Andhra Pradesh)
5.   Mahakaleswar (Ujjain -MP)
6.   Omkareshwar (Khandwa- MP)
7.   Kedarnath (Uttrakhand)
8.   Bhimashankar (Maharashtra)
9.   Grishneshwar (Aurangabad - Maharashtra),
10. Triambakeshwar (Nashik- Maharashtra),
11. Vaidyanath (Deogarh - Jharkhand)
12. Rameshwaram (Tamil Nadu).

Other temples located here are,
Adi Shankara's Cave - Omkareshwar is said to be the place where Sri Adi Sankara met his Guru Govindapada in a cave. This cave can be found just below Shiva temple where an image of Adi Shankara has been installed

Friday, April 27, 2018

Northern Sojourn Day IX: Chittorgarh – Fort, Sieges, Maharanas and Mirabai,

@Chittorgarh Railway Station

It’s only a couple of hours journey from Udaipur to Chittorgarh. Train was crossing the desert like terrain the night. While I was approaching the limits of Chittor, stories of multiple sieges and other battles Chittor witnessed came to my mind. So as the valor and sacrifice of thousands fought and died for Mewar kingdoms during those bloody sieges. Was that the sound of numerous women of Mewar who committed Jauhar? Thinking about Jauhar itself brings lot of terrible images to the mind.

Unlike all other places I visited previously in this journey, my train reached Chittorgarh on time. Irony is, I desperately wanted this train to be late. Problem is my room booking at railway station starts from next day morning!!! To much time left for morning. I walked towards sleeper class waiting room and found an empty chair. Next train came and went. On the other end of the room, so one just vacated a chair structure having three seats. I went there and tried to sleep. Night slowly passed by; it was no a place for comfortable sleep. In between I woke up adjusted mu pose and slept again. By 7.30 I woke up from the chair, took the bag and went for retiring room.

After having a brief sleep and bath, I went outside to start my literary. I got a shared auto, from railway station entrance which took me close to fort. Driver showed another auto going to the fort. I went there and got in. There was one more couple in that auto going to visit the fort. Along with them I also started my journey to one of the most illustrious fort in Indian history – Chittorgarh Fort.

Chittorgarh - History

It is believed that, Chittorgarh was originally called Chitrakuda and was founded by king Chitranga from local Mauryan dynasty. Located on the banks of Gambhiri and Berach rivers, this city served as the capital of Sisodia Rajputs until they shifted their capital to Udaipur.

Chittorgarh Fort (UNESCO World Heritage Site)

Located on top of a hill, this fort covers an area of approx. 700 acres. This is one of the biggest fort complexes in Asia. Seven gateways built using giant stone structures provided entry to this fort. Main gate is known as Ram Pol (Ram refers to Lord Ram and Pol means gate). Other gates are, Hanuman Pol, Ganesh Pol, Jodla Pol, Laxman Pol, Padan Pol, Bhairon Pol. These massive gates had its own defence mechanism to fend of enemy elephants; parapets on these gates also provided ideal location for archers to aim and shot arrows towards invading army.

We entered the fort through a road which have some sharp turns. From the top (sunset view point), one can see the bird’s view of modern day Chittorgarh blow. As the fort covers a lot of area, one might need a vehicle to cover all the land and see monuments.

Mewar kingdoms controlled the fort from 7th century onward. By 9th century, fort passed to the hands of Paramara dynasty. They ruled it till the end of 13th century.

Sieges

During its heydays, Chittorgarh witnessed multiple sieges. Blood flowed like water during those sieges. Probably the earliest one was from Delhi.

1303 - Aladdin Khalji

Aladdin Khalji came here and laid siege to the fort. After an eight month long struggle he conquered the fort by defeating Rana Ratan Singh. It is believed that, after the conquest around 30,000 people were massacred in the fort. Aladdin gave the fort to his son Khizr Khan (or Khidr Khan) and returned to Delhi. Chittor fort was renamed as Khizrabad, a name which didn't stick for long time. Khizr Khan controlled the fort for 8 years and it went to Maldeva. He ruled Chittor for another 7 years. Later Hammir Singh took control of the fort and established his dynasty - 'Sisodia dynasty' - as the rulers of Mewar.

Rana Kumbha

One prominent king who came later in this dynasty is Rana Kumbha. He built numerous forts and ruled the kingdom for 35 years. As per some accounts, he built as many as 32 forts including the famous - Kumbalgarh. He is also credited for Kumbalgarh's 36 km long wall making it one of the lengthiest walls in the world. Unfortunately, he was assassinated by his son Rana Udaysimha (Uday Singh I). In later power struggles, Kumbha's another son Rana Raimal defeated Udaysimha and ascended to the throne of Mewar. After Raimal's death in 1509, his son Sangram Singh (famously known as Rana Sanga) came to power.

Rana Sanga and First Battle of Panipat


Rana Sanga achieved significant victories during his reign. He defeated combined forces of Sultan Muzaffar of Gujarat and Sultan of Malwa. He conquered some districts of Malwa after a victory over Ibrahim Lodhi in Battle of Khatoli (Gwalior). In this battle Rana Sanga lost his left arm and suffered significant injuries in one leg. Mewar was also successful in Battle of Dholpur against Lodi.

During this time, Sanga offered to join Babur in his attack against Lodi. Plan was to attack Lodi together.  Sanga would attack Agra and Babur will attack Delhi. Babur went ahead and attacked Delhi but Sanga didn’t made any moves. Babur conquered both cities. Unlike his grandfather Timur, he decided to stay in India. Victory in first battle of Panipat (April 21, 1526) against Lodi made Babur as a force to recon with. His cannons were one of the most powerful weapons northern India ever witnessed.

Sanga built a big confederacy. Almost all Rajput kingdoms joined him in his battle against Babur. Afghan owing allegiance to Mahmud Lodi - numbering close to 10,000 also joined with Rana Sanga. Later during the battle, Silhadi of Raisen deserted Rana's camp and joined with Babur with his strong contingent. Though he was able to save his life, Rana Sanga lost the battle and his confederacy collapsed. He tried to continue his fight against Babur. It is believed that, fearing another battle (which might become suicidal) with Babur his nobles poisoned him to death.

1532, 1535 - Bahadur Shah (Sultan of Gujrat)

In 1532 forces of Bahadur Shah laid siege to Chittor fort. Chittor paid him off with large ransom and he went back only to come again 3 years later. In 1535 he again besieged the fort. This time Bahadur Shah conquered and sacked the fort. It is believed that, around 13,000 women committed jauhar this time. Bahadur Shah's was not able to hold on to the fort for long as he was soon defeated by Humayun at Mandasur, Mandu and later at Champaner. During this time, Sisodias regained control of Chittor.

1567 - Akbar

Last siege of Chittor was started by Mughal Emperor Akbar on 20 October 1567. It is believed that, Akbar wanted an easy access to important seaports of Gujrat and Malwa. Amber already came under him. UdaiSingh II of Mewar was ready to accept Mughal suzerainty and pay tribute. However, he was not ready to lower his head in front of Akbar.

Before siege, Udai Singh placed the fort under the command of Jaimal and Patta and left 8000 soldiers and 1000 musketeers for the defence of Chittor. Akbar's army captured the fort in February 1568. However, he was not able to capture Maharana Udai Singh II.

During this time, Mughal army under Asaf Khan and Wazir Khan captured Mandalgarh. One contingent under the command of Asaf Khan went to Rampur another one under the command of Hussain Quli Khan went to Udaipur and Kumbalgarh to conquer Rana's territories. Next year Akbar's forces conquered Ranthambor fort as well.

Maharana Pratap and Battle of Haldigati

Rana Udai Singh died four years later. His son - Pratap Singh (Maharana Pratap) took over the reins and fought against Mughal army. Despite losing to Mughal forces in the Battle of Haldighati he continued his fight against Mughal forces.

In 1615 son of Maharana Pratap - Amar Singh I - accepted Mughal suzerainty. As a goodwill gesture, Jahangir (Akbar's son and then Emperor) gave Chittor fort to Amar Singh I. There was a condition for this transfer – damages suffered by the fort during the siege should never be repaired. Shift of Mewar capital to Udaipur and end of military significance for Chittor rang the death bell for more than 800 years of Chittor’s position.

Water

For any fort to face siege successfully, it is important to maintain enough reserves of food and water. On some accounts, Chittor had close to 84 water bodies with a combined capacity of 4bn liters.

My Journey

After having a bird’s view of Chittor city in the plains the first place I went was Kalika Mata Temple

Kalika Mata Temple

It is believed that, this temple was built in 8th century for worshipping Sun God. Later in 14th century temple was dedicated to Goddess Kali. This is an active temple with daily poojas. After climbing and array of steps I reached the sanctum.

Rani Padmini's Palace

Next in line was Rani Padmini’s palace. This palace is one of the earliest structures in fort complex and believed to be the home for Rani Padmini. One need to buy separate tickets for visiting this place. Centuries of wear and tear took its toll on this structure. What you see now is a worn-out remnant of a majestic structure from past.

Earlier this palace was surrounded by water, making it one of India’s early such palaces. Probably in rainy season it may again get surrounded by water. Currently water is low and only covers two sides.

Kirti Stambha (Tower of Fame)

From Rani Padmini’s palace we went to Kirthi Stambha. This big tower with artworks is dedicated to Adinathji (1st Jain Tirthankara). Built by a wealthy Jain merchant (Jijaji Rathod) in 12th century, Kirthi Stambha has a narrow stairway till 6th floor. Top pavilion was added later. Currently staircase is closed to visitors. I spent some time looking at this beautiful tower and then went to Jain temple.

Jain Temples

There are multiple Jain temples in fort complex. The only one I visited was located next to Kirthi Sthamba.

Gates

Next destination was one of the majestic gates of Chittor fort. From is bad shape one can conclude that this part of fort suffered heavily probably during the last siege. Some reconstruction was done. One local tour guide was explaining to their group that invading armies were camped and attacked the fort from the vast plains below. Currently those plains are largely covered in greenery.

Vijay Stambh (Tower of Victory)


After a while I reached Vijay Stambh.

This tower was constructed by Maharana Kumbha in memory of his victories over Mahmud Shah I Khalji, then Sultan of Malwa. It’s a nine-story building and bigger than Kirthi Stambha. Built using red sandstone and white marble this tower is decorated with sculptures of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Here also a narrow staircase is built to reach the top. As in Kirthi Stambha stair cases are closed for visitors. If so many visitors used that staircases, then the tower is not going to last long.

Next to Victory pillar there is an elevated platform. It is believed that Johar was committed at this place.

Samadisvar Shiva Temple

This temple is located next to Johar place. This is an active temple and daily poojas are going on here. I went inside. This place was too much crowded. A big tour group from a school almost filled each inch of vacant space. Next to Shiv temple it is Gaumukh reservoir

Gaumukh Kund

This was a deep tank located at one side of fort and fed by a spring which emerges from a rock in the shape of cow’s mouth (therefore the reservoir is known as Gaumakh Kund. This pool served as one of the main source of water during sieges. There was a big queue to reach the rock. I also join the queue.

By the way one thing with queues in India is, it is totally useless. People hardly form queue. Even if someone forms there will always be someone who break it and go to the front. People who are in the queue, not interested in picking up a fight hardly object. Now behind that guy another will come and soon there will be a second queue. Then a third queue. Then a struggle to see who goes first. This is not without exceptions, some of the most efficient queue systems are also in India. No, it is not the queue in front of temples, but the queue in front of Kerala’s beverages shops!!!

Just between the goumukh and rest of the place there is a narrow path. Those who go to Gomukh to touch the rock and water must come back through same way. I was patiently waiting, and people were jumping from behind on both sides. Finally, I reached the kund and then came back. On a near by stone wall someone carved a lady’s figure which is believed to be rani Padmini’s.

Meerabai Temple


This is one of the most famous temples in fort complex.

Meerabai is one of the most famous poets of Bhakti movement and complete devotee of Lord Krishna. She was born in a noble family of Merta and later married (probably at the age of 18) to crown prince of Mewar - Bhoj Raj (he was the eldest son of Rana Sanga). From childhood itself she was completely a Lord Krishna devotee. Though Bhoj Raj initially tried to pull Meera to worldly affairs, he later developed a relationship of friendship and understanding with Meera. Probably in 1526(years are contested) Bhojraj died due to battle wounds.

There are stories of multiple assassination attempts on her.

Stories suggest that, she later left Mewar kingdom and went on pilgrimage and lived in Dwaraka or Vrindavan and finally merged in to an idol of Krishna.

One of her poems,

"My Dark One has gone to an alien land.
He has left me behind, he's never returned, he's never sent me a single word.
So I've stripped off my ornaments, jewels and adornments, cut my hair from my head.
And put on holy garments, all on his account, seeking him in all four directions.
Mira: unless she meets the Dark One, her Lord, she doesn't even want to live."

— Mira Bai, Translated by John Stratton Hawley

When she came to Chittorgarh fort, she asked a Krishna temple for personal use. Her father in law, Maharana Sangram Singh built a small temple next to existing Kumbha temple. This temple was later known as Kumbha Shyam Temple. She continued her worship of Lord Krishna there.

Jain Swethamber Temple

This is a beautiful Jain temple located next to Fateh Prakash Mahal. I went inside; spent a little time there and came out.

Rajastan Hasthkala Centre

While coming back auto driver took me to Rajasthan Handicraft emporium. As per them all those saris are made from different fruits etc by local artisans. As per them one specialty of these saris is it will produce a nice fragrance whenever it was pulled from water. That guy even demonstrated it to me, and the fragrance was there. Price ranges from 400 to 3000. I paid for two and they sent it over VPP. After some days, saris finally reached home. Irony was, I was not able to demonstrate any scent at home!!! I specifically asked how long the smell will last he told 2 years or so. In any case saris looked good. In case you are buying don’t expect fragrance and try it there itself. Its width may not be enough for you.

Gambhiri River Bridge

While going back to Chittor railway station, we reached Gambhiri river bridge. This bridge was built using stone and she has nine slightly pointed arches and one semi-circular arch. It is believed that, this bridge was built by Kizir Khan (son of Aladdin Khilji) after the conquest of Chittorgarh in 1303. Striking some bells? Well, if it was built during that time then this Gambhiri bridge is more than 700 years old.  Built mainly for moving horses, animals, humans in that era; this bridge withstood all wear and tear, continuous water flow and still good enough for motorized vehicles.

By afternoon - around 2.30 - I reached railway station. I was very much hungry by this time. After searching for restaurants, I finally reached Dominos and ordered Mexican green wave pizza. Day long walk made me very much tired and I slept. By the time I woke up it was 6.30 in the evening. Still close to four and half hours for train to Indore. Finally, it came, and I reached Indore by next day morning 9.30am.

Sajeev

Other main places in and around fort complex are,

1. Fateh Prakash Palace
Located near Rana Kumbha Palace, this palace was built by Maharana Fateh Singh in Rajput style. This was Fateh Singh's residence as well.

2. Rana Kumbha Palace
This place - now only ruins - is located near Vijay Stambh. It is believed that this palace had underground cellars. It is believed that, Rani Padmini and others committed Jauhar here. Founder of Udaipur, Maharana Udai Singh II, also born here. Rani Meera, the famous poet saint, also lived in this palace. Royal Treasury was also located nearby.

3. Suraj Pole
4. Vidyanath Mahadev Temple
5. Sardeshawar Mahadev Temple
6. Ambey Mata Temple
7. Hanuman Temple
8. Lakshmi Temple
9. Shanidev Temple
10.Rana Ratan Mahal etc.


References

1. Wikipedia
2. Chittaurgarh’s 700-year-old bridge (http://www.willylogan.com/?p=1168)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

One evening in Pottery Town

Located in Cantonment area – just behind Featherlight School - pottery town is a small zone where families/small units make products using clay and other materials. If you like to buy clay pots of different types and shapes, Ganesh idols for festivals, diyas for Divali then pottery town is the perfect place to go.

Me and Nandan planned to visit this place long back. But due to some reason which I hardly recall we postponed the journey. When Jaseer asked about a place to go for weekend this was my suggestion. By the Bangalore palace is not so far. We decided to go there on a Sunday evening, which later turned out a bad idea. Sunday is a holiday for the town. We met at the side of Ulsoor lake and drove towards the town.

Pottery town was smaller than expected. We started walking from one end to other. One the narrow lanes there were multiple houses. There were lot of pots freshly made from clay. On the other side, lot of Ganesha statues of different sizes looking at pedestrians. Further down the lane there were a lot of Tandoori ovens. Soon we reached other end of the area. Hardly anyone was working on making pots. Everyone is sitting calmly here and there and talking with their friends and family members.

There was nothing much to do, so we continued or journey to Bangalore Place. In case you are planning to visit this area go on a weekday or Saturday.

Sajeev

Notes:
1. 4-5 km from MG road, Bangalore.
2. Best time to visit: Weekdays and Saturdays

Northern Sojourn Day VII, VIII: Udaipur - Siting on Aravalli's Lap

MY train from Jaipur reached Udaipur station at 6.35am. Station looked almost empty, except for those who came along with me in train (Khajuraho - Udaipur). My hotel was a couple of kilometers away from station. After checking Google maps, I walked towards second gate and then another 2kms to reach my hotel at Savina. After having breakfast, I went to nearby junction and waited for an auto. In most northern/central/western Indian cities, its economical to go for shared autos. By the way, you should know exactly where you need to go!!! My first destination was Jagadish Temple. Unfortunately, driver didn't recognize that name. Instead he told me some 5-6 other place names. One of that was Suraj Pole; I recognized that name and went to Suraj Pole (aka Sun Gate).

That was a big auto, two people can sit along with driver. At back there was two rows of seats, facing each other.  One guy was sitting along with driver. I sat in a row just behind driver but in opposite direction. There were seven people in that auto. From next stop one vegetable vendor came in. He had two big plastic sacks. One was filled with brinjals and the other one with Cauliflowers. Oh no; there was a third one, full of green chilies. Old guy sitting opposite to me was eating samosas, probably his breakfast.

Udaipur History

Udaipur (aka 'City of Lakes') is a major city in Rajasthan. Surrounded by Aravalli mountain ranges, which also separate Udaipur from harsh climate of Thar desert, is home for five major lakes - Pichola, Fateh Sagar, Swaroopsagar, Rangsagar and Dooth Talai. Located 650+ kms from Delhi, Udaipur was founded in 1550s by Maharana Udai Singh II. 

Udaipur served as capital of Mewar till 1818. 

Before Udaipur came in to existence, this area had a trading town known as Ayad. In 16th century when Maharana Udai Singh II (during his exile in Kumbhalgarh) realized that Chittorgarh Fort is highly vulnerable to advanced long-range artillery aided warfare, he decided to build a new capital in the middle of mountains. Especially in a place where it would be difficult for enemy to bring in heavy artillery. Ayad was right place for new capital, but threat of floods always loomed around Ayad. Hence, he selected a ridge east of Lake Pichola for his new capital city. Udai Singh II also built a 6km long wall to protect new capital from external attacks. This wall had seven gates - Brahmpole, Hathipole, Surajpole, Chandpole, Udiapole, Ambapole.

After the death of Udai Singh in 1572, kingdom passed to the hands of his son - Maharana Pratap (one of the most iconic ruler of Sisodia dynasty). However, at the battle of Haldighati (1576) he was defeated by armies of Akbar and Udaipur came under Mughal rule.

After the death of Akbar his son and then emperor Jahangir gave Mewer back to Sisodias. Maharana Pratap’s son Amar Singh I came to power. However, peace only came after a treaty between Sisodias and Mughals.

Decline of Mughal empire brought another enemy to the borders of Mewar kingdom - Marathas. This forced Maharana Bhim Singh to sign a treaty with Company and accepted their protection agreement. After independence Mewer kings lost royal privileges and titles, but they could retain the ownerships of palaces. Many of these palaces were later converted to heritage hotels.

After a while I reached Suraj Pole. From there, I decided to walk all the way to Jagadish temple. Though walking takes a lot of time, there may not be a better way to explore city and its inhabitants’ daily life. After walking for close to one kilometer I reached Sajjan Nivas hotel; opposite to that stands Vintage Car Museum. Eager to look inside, I bought tickets and went in.

Vintage Car Museum

Inside there was a small collection of old luxury cars, other vehicles and related equipment. The items, which only a small percentage of Indians could afford in those days. By the way ticket charge was 300. 

After going through the collection and taking photos, I went outside and walked towards City Palace. 

In case you are spending time in Udaipur city, place keep enough cash in hand. I didn't see any ATM in old city areas, especially near city palace.

Udaipur City Palace

This palace was built along with Udaipur city by Maharana Udai Singh II. His successors made considerable additions to palace complex. It is believed that while searching land for a new capital, Udai Singh II met a hermit who advised him to build a new capital there. Royal courtyard (Rai Angan) was built at that place where king met hermit.

Several maharanas came after Udai Singh added new structures to place complex. There are at least 11 small palaces with in this complex. Entire complex was built either using granite or marble. Interiors of place had balconies, paintings, mirror works etc. From palace terrace one can view the majestic lakes, Aravalli ranges and Sajjangarh monsoon palace.

Main entry point to palace from Udaipur City is through a gate known as Badi Pol (Big gate - built in 1600). This on leads the visitor to triple arched Tripolia gate (built in 1725). Between these two gates, there are 8 marble arches known as Toranas. An arena in front of Toran pol was used to stage elephant fights.

Inside the palace there are gallerias depicting armors used in old days; another gallery had a lot of pictures – paintings of Rana Pratap, scenes from Haldigati battle etc.

Amar Vilas, Badi Mahal, Bhim Vilas, Chinni Chitrashala, Choti Chitrashala, Dilkusha Mahal, Durbar Hall, Fateprakash Palace (currently a luxury hotel), Krishna Vilas, Laxmi Vilas chowk, Manak Mahal, Mor Chowk, Rang Bhawan, Sheesh Mahal, Zenana Mahal (currently museum) are other main portions of City Palace.

At first it was interesting to walk through city palace. However, going up and down through so many staircases and endless verandahs sucked all energy out of me. After reaching the top, I simply sat there. I don't remember how long. There were many foreigners, Indians from various states came to visit the palace. Majority of them spend little time in looking at painstakingly carved pillars, mirror works, colored windows, architecture etc. Most of them simply took selfies and moved from one place to another. I don’t know how it is going to work out. I believe, if one has a chance to see something great, he/she should enjoy it with naked eyes, touch it with naked hands, feel it with full heart. Its ok to take selfie, and photos. But along with that, have some real moments as well. If you only need photos, then its available in internet. I strongly believe, most than photos it’s the experience that counts; the one which creates a long-lasting experience.

At one corner in terrace a family was taking their group picture. But, there was a small rebel. That poor little chap didn't want to walk any further; his dad persuaded him to come with him to take a photo. He didn't. At the end of Sam, dhan, bhed; dhand came. He forcefully took him to that corner and took family picture.

There was a place in that palace which used to house carrier pigeons. One mother standing next to it, explained to her son that pigeons learned how to read and write from that place. Was there any pigeon in history which could read and write? Anyway, an interesting explanation.

There were several tour groups roaming in City Palace, many had their own tour guides. I was standing close to one such group. Their tour guide was explaining them about Rajput valor and chivalry. Suddenly he started telling the story of Rani Padmini; remember I visited Udaipur at a time when many organizations were trying to block the release of Hindi movie - Padmavati (later renamed as Padmavat). He told, Alauddin Khalji saw the reflection of beautiful rani in mirror and became unconscious!!! It’s hard to believe that Alauddin Khalji, a battle-hardened Sultan who fought numerous bloody wars against multiple Indian kingdoms and Mongol ones, became unconscious after seeing the reflection of a beautiful queen.

Lake Pichola

City palace lies on eastern banks of Pichola Lake. A good boat ride from City Palace jetty will give you great view of City Palace.

Lake Palace (Jagniwas)

Jagniwas is a summer palace located on an island in Lake Pichola. One can see this palace, built using marble, from City Palace itself.

By the time I came out of City palace it was afternoon.

Jagadish Temple

It was by accident I saw Jagadish temple located close to palace.

One must climb numerous steps to go inside. Jagadish temple was built by Maharana Jagat Singh way back in 1651. Lord Jagannath's idol worshiped inside the temple was carved out of single black stone. Four smaller temples of Ganesha, Surya, Shiva and Shakti are located around the main temple.

By the time I came out form Jagadish temple, I was too tired to walk. My temperature was raising slowly, all indication for a possible fever. I slowly walked towards main road. Outside there were numerous vendors selling many items. I thought of buying something as a memento. However, there was hardly any cash left with me. There were couple of ATMs in that lane but all were empty. Well, maybe next time.

A police man on duty told me to take a small narrow road to reach the main road. Another long walk. It was a narrow street with so many small roads going here and there. Finally, I reached main road. No more walking; took an auto to reach hotel in Savina.

Monsoon Palace

Next day, I woke up early and packed everything. It was my last day in Udaipur. After vacating the hotel I went to railway clock room and placed all my bags there. Next destination was Monsoon palace. From railway station I got an auto to Malla Talai. We crossed Gulab Bagh, Brahmpole and reached Malla Talai. As auto was going further in the direction of monsoon palace I asked the driver to drop somewhere close to Monsoon Palace. He dropped me at a junction in Ram Pura road, from where Monsoon palace road starts. There were hardly any shared autos at that time; hence I walked all the way to Sajjangarh wild life sanctuary entrance. From here prepaid vehicles are available to reach the top.

After buying ticket, I boarded a jeep. Technically speaking we were going to the top of a hill in Aravalli mountains. But Aravalli range is not a traditional mountain range, it looked like a desert except for numerous small shrubs and its green leaves. Atmosphere was very dry and semi hot dry wind was blowing outside. 

Built by Maharana Sajjan Singh, on top of Bansdara hills, Monsoon palace was used as hunting lodge during maharaja’s era. When I reached there, only ground floor was accessible for visitors, rest were closed for maintenance. There was hardly anything to see inside. However, from that height one can see multiple hills in Aravalli ranges. After spending half an hour there, I boarded another jeep to reach the bottom.

I think, as the name indicates, it might be better to visit Monsoon Palace during rainy season.
After coming back to the gate, I went to Udaipur zoo.

Udaipur Zoo

Until entering he zoo, I though Monsoon palace was the biggest disappointment of Udaipur journey. But no, it was the zoo.

There was some animals and zoo authorities provided battery powered vehicles and cycles for visitors. However, the atmosphere, high temperature, limited number of birds and animals, distance from Udaipur City were all some strong discouraging factors for any prospective visitors. At zoo I met a guy from Bengal, he too was equally disappointed. After walked for a while, the only thing we were looking for was an exit gate. That zoo should be moved to some other area. It’s not right to keep those tigers, lions, bears, birds etc there.

From zoo, we took an auto to town. This time, I got down at Udaipole and had a nice lunch from nearby restaurant. As per multiple forms in net, the best place to by sari was Hathipole. Well, I thought of buying something for mom and went there. After buying two saris from a store in Hathipole, I took an auto back to railway station.

Four girls and a guy was already there in that auto. After a while girls got down at a junction and gave 100 INR to driver. He gave 20 INR back (20/person). Girls didn’t agree. As per them driver told 10 rupees when they got in. After much arguments, driver gave 20 INR back and tried to settle for 15/person. But no, girls were not ready to cave. They insisted on 10/person. 

I was sitting next to driver, in between him and girls. Both were shouting to each other. It was a fight which the driver was going to lose. Four against one. Finally, he gave in and give 20 more rupees back. 

Remaining guy got down at next junction and gave 10 INR to driver. Driver got angry and another shouting match started. This time driver insisted on 15 and yes, he got it. I am seeing all this; from that point to railway station he started a non-stop conversation blaming those girls for not paying him properly. 

At station entrance a father and his kid - around 10 – was flying a kite. He was wearing an old, torn shirt and equally old mud covered dhothi. His son was wearing a dirty old white shirt and a small not fitting black pant. I looked at the kite, it was flying high in the sky. Father son duo was so happy and gave all their attention to the kite. Watching them flying the kite was probably the best thing I saw in Udaipur!!!

Sajeev.

Other main places to visit in Udaipur are,

Ahar Museum

Houses some rare collection of earthen pottery. As per some articles a few of sculptures and archaeological items dates to 1700 BC. 10th century metal figure of Buddha is another important item here.

Haldighati (Haldi means 'turmeric')

This famous mountain pass in Aravalli Range got its name due to yellow colored soil. This pass located 40kms away from Udaipur and connects Rajsamand and Pali districts.

Dooth Talai Lake

This lake along with its park and garden are some good places to visit in Udaipur.