2010 was year of Indian heritage site visits.
It started with Hampi, Pattadakal, Aihole, Badami and Bijapur in January. Wonderful company, great guide and a change in my mindset. I always thought that we Indians didn’t know how to maintain and preserve our heritage. But the visit to Hampi and Pattadakal changed that. These sites were impeccably clean and well maintained. No loitering in the parks around the temples and most surprisingly, no Lays packets flying all around! There is a scope for improvement in Hampi as the way to the sites were quiet dirty. But still, kudos!!!
There was one thing that bothered me a lot though. Isn't it a shame that the sites have to be UNESCO protected and only then will we maintain them!
Loads of temples and ruins of palaces amidst vast stretches of boulder-strewn hills makes Hampi quite interesting. Matunga hill is a must climb for its beautiful view from the top …we went for the sunrise. People say sunset is even more beautiful that the sunrise. It wasn’t intentional, but I remembered one of our group commenting much before this trip…she was fed up of sunsets…sunset in the desert in Rajasthan, sunset over the ocean in Oia and what not! So I guess, for her sake, sunrise was a change!
2 days in Hampi were not enough….I know I could have spent some more time. But we had to move on to Pattadakal. Incredible India adverts and tickets have a picture of a temple, which I often thought was one of the Hampi temples. But it is actually the Pattadakal one. From there to the Aihole and Badami caves. Guess after Hampi and Pattadakal, these were a bit of a let down. Not that well maintained.
Bijapur…not sure why we had that one in this itinerary. It was far and tiring. And all we got time to see was the Gol Gumbaaz. Though no doubts it was awesome, specially the guide there, who thought he was next best to Jagjit Singh. To demonstrate the famous whispering gallery, he sang some nice ghazals for us. It did sound nice, I must say!
In September, it was Ajanta & Ellora Caves and Hazoor Sahib near Aurangabad. I was asked by my friend if I was interested and I said yeahhhh, still in 2 minds. There was an exchange of emails, which went to an email id I was hardly checking and before I knew it, bookings were done and I was part of that trip. No regrets though. Again, wonderful company, new friends and some adventures.
Recommendation for all….no need to climb the Daulatabad Fort and drain your energy if you don’t have sufficient time. We were so tired after the climb in the hot sun, that we didn’t have enough time and energy left for the Ellora caves.
It was disappointing to see people loitering around eating food and making a mess in the caves. But they didn’t know what was in store for them when Meera went and complained to the officials there and made them clean up after them. And the mouthful that they got from the rest of us!
In Ajanta though I was in for a pleasant surprise. A man seemed to have some paan in his mouth and so the guard wouldn’t let him into the cave. When the man denied having something in his mouth, he made him open his mouth and checked it. I couldn’t resist appreciating this and giving him a ‘shaabash’
Ellora sculptuues and Ajanta paintings are mind-blowing. The 3D pictures, where as you turn around , the face of the child / bull seems to move with you were specially very impressive.
In November it was Amritsar. I have often been there on religious visits with my family. But we always just went to Harmandir Sahib and the surrounding Gurudwaras. Since this time I went with friends, I got a chance to visit the JallianWala Bagh. As if the site itself didn't make you shudder, the light and sound show in the evening in Amitabh Bachchan’s voice sure gives you the Goosebumps.
And finally, last but definitely the icing on the cake was Belur and Halebeedu near Chickmangalur. Having a guide makes all the difference. As they explain the detailed ornate carvings, which otherwise would make no sense you are left in awe…what details, a small sculpture can explain an entire mythological story.
All these visits filled me with pride…
PROUD TO BE AN INDIAN!