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ভূতের রাজা বর দিতে এলে দ্বিতীয় বর আর জুতোজোড়া চাইব কি?

উঁহু। চাইব না। হাতে হাতে তালি মেরে হুস্‌ করে পৌঁছে গেলে রাস্তার মজাটাই তো থাকবে না।

এখানে যে সব খুশিয়াল যাত্রাপথের গল্প এখনও অবধি আপলোডিত হয়েছে, সেগুলো হল –

ষোলো বছরের কিশোর সুকুমারকে নিয়ে শিলিগুড়ি থেকে টয়ট্রেনে দার্জিলিং যাচ্ছিলেন উপেন্দ্রকিশোর। সেই ট্রেনযাত্রার গল্প লিখেছিলেন ছোটদের ‘মুকুল’ পত্রিকায়। লেখাটা পড়ছিলাম কেভেন্টার্সের ছাদের সেই টেবিলটায় বসে, যেখানে ‘কাঞ্চনজঙ্ঘা’র শুটিং হয়েছিল। যে ঠাকুরদা, বাবা আর নাতিকে আঁকড়ে আঁকড়ে লতিয়ে ওঠা আমার ছোটবেলা, ডালপালা মেলা আমার বড়োবেলা – সেই তিন প্রজন্মকে এমনিভাবে একসঙ্গে মুহূর্তবন্দি করে ফেলার রোমাঞ্চও ফিকে হয়ে যাচ্ছিল, যখন লেখাটার প্রতিটা লাইন পড়তে পড়তে বুঝতে পারছিলাম আমার আজকের এই টাইমফ্রেমের সঙ্গে কি আশ্চর্যভাবে মিলে যাচ্ছে ১১৫ বছর আগেকার উপেন্দ্রকিশোরের টাইমফ্রেম। মেলাচ্ছে কে! একটা চওড়ায় দু-ফুটিয়া রেলট্র্যাকের ওপর দিয়ে চলা একটা দুকামরার খুদে খেলনাগাড়ি, যাতে চড়ে আমি তার আগের দিনই শিলিগুড়ি থেকে দার্জিলিং পুরো রাস্তাটাই উঠে এসেছি। বাইরের খোলসে চাকচিক্য, একটু আধুনিক কেতার চেয়ার আর কয়লার বদলে ডিজেলে টানা ইঞ্জিন – এইটুকু ছাড়া বাকি সবটুকুই যেমন ছিল সেই উপেন্দ্রকিশোরের আমলে, এখনও তেমনি আছে। এখানে একটু উপেন্দ্রকিশোর কোট করার লোভ সামলাতে পারছি না-
“শিলিগুড়ি হইতে দার্জিলিং প্রায় পঞ্চাশ মাইল। এই পথটুকু যাইতেই এই রেলের সাড়ে ছ-ঘন্টার কম সময়ে কুলায় না।… এই রেল প্রস্তুত করিতে কতখানি বুদ্ধি খরচ হইয়াছিল, তাহা আর আমাদের ভাবিয়া দেখিবার দরকার হয় না। কিন্তু তথাপি এই পথে চলিতে চলিতে এক-এক জায়গায় এমন এক-একটা চমৎকার কৌশল চক্ষে পড়ে যে, তখন একবার এই রেল যিনি প্রস্তুত করিয়াছিলেন তাঁহার বুদ্ধির কথা না ভাবিয়া থাকিতে পারা যায় না।’’

একালের ডিজেলে টানা ইঞ্জিন আর সেকালের মতো কয়লার ইঞ্জিন পাশাপাশি

এই লাইনগুলো পড়তে পড়তে এমন একটা গা-শিরশিরানি ভালো লাগার অনুভূতি হচ্ছিল! টয়ট্রেন যেন টাইমমেশিন হয়ে উপেন্দ্রকিশোরের, সুকুমারের সহযাত্রী করে দিল আমায়। নাহলে আজ যখন আমার টাইমফ্রেমে দাঁড়িয়ে বেঁচে থাকার পরতে পরতে মানুষের বুদ্ধির আর দুর্বুদ্ধির প্রমাণ থইথই করতে দেখছি, তখন ১৮৮১ সালে তৈরি হিমালয়ান রেলের স্রষ্টাদের বুদ্ধি নিয়ে উপেন্দ্রকিশোরের মতোই অবাক হচ্ছি কেন? কারণ ইউনেস্কো ওয়র্ল্ড হেরিটেজের তকমা দিয়েছে বলে এক্ষেত্রে অন্তত সাবেককালের কৌশলগুলোকে যত্ন করে জিইয়ে রাখতে হয়েছে। তাই ডিনামাইট দিয়ে দুমাদ্দুম পাহাড় ফাটিয়ে সুড়ঙ্গ খুঁড়ে তার মধ্যে দিয়ে ধাঁ ধাঁ করে রেল চালিয়ে ইতিহাসের পিন্ডি চটকানো হয়নি। এখনও ঘন জঙ্গলের মধ্যে দিয়ে মিনিটে মিনিটে বাঁকের পর বাঁক পেরিয়ে ভোঁ বাজাতে বাজাতে এগোয় টয়ট্রেন। টুকটুক করে ওপরে ওঠে বড়ো বড়ো পাহাড়ি লুপগুলোকে ঘিরে ঘিরে। হঠাৎ করে অনেকটা ওপরে উঠতে হলে ট্রেন মুখ না ঘুরিয়ে জেড-এর মতো একটা লাইন ধরে পিছিয়ে এসে ওপরের লাইনের সঙ্গে মুখকে সমান করে, তারপর হুস্ করে ওপরে উঠে যায়। দুটো লাইন মিশছে এমন জায়গার মুখে এসে প্রতিবার ট্রেন থেমে যায় আর কোনো রেলকর্মী হাত দিয়ে এই লাইনের নাটবল্টু খুলে পা দিয়ে লাথি মেরে মেরে এদিকের লাইন ওদিকে নিয়ে গিয়ে আবার ওদিকের নাটবল্টু লাগিয়ে দেন। কারসাজিটা ঠিক কি হয় কেন হয় বুঝিনি, তবে অত্যাধুনিক সিগন্যালিং-এর যুগে এইসব দৃশ্য বেশ মজার লাগে।

এইসব ম্যানুয়াল ব্যবস্থাপনায় অনেকটা সময় যায়। কাজেই সেকালের মতো একালেও টয়ট্রেন চলে সাত ঘন্টা ধরে। তবে পুরো পরিকাঠামোটা যত্ন করে ধরে রাখার দায় ও দায়িত্ব সেকালের মানুষের মধ্যে যতটা ছিল এখন ততটা আর নেই। উপরন্তু এর মধ্যে আমরা দায়িত্ব নিয়ে গ্লোবাল ওয়ার্মিং বাড়িয়েছি, গুচ্ছ গুচ্ছ গাছ কেটেছি। তাই আগের থেকে পাহাড়ে ধস নামে অনেক বেশি। সেই জন্যই নিউ জলপাইগুড়ি থেকে দার্জিলিং এই পুরো রাস্তাটা টয়ট্রেন চলছে এমন ঘটনা ভারি দুর্লভ। এই এতদিনে এই আধবুড়ো বয়সে অবশেষে সেই সুযোগ এল! যদিও কার্শিয়ং থেকে দার্জিলিং অংশে টয়ট্রেন চলে মোটামুটি নিয়মিত। আর দার্জিলিং থেকে ঘুম ঘুরে দার্জিলিং ফিরে আসার একটা ঘন্টা দুয়েকের ‘জয় রাইড’-এর ব্যবস্থাও আছে। কিন্তু এভাবে টয়ট্রেনের মাহাত্ম্য বোঝা সম্ভব নয়। টয়ট্রেনের আসল মজা শুরুর অংশেই। শিলিগুড়ির পরের স্টেশন শুকনা থেকে যখন ট্রেন সমতল ছাড়িয়ে ঘন জঙ্গলের মধ্যে দিয়ে ওপরে ওঠে, যখন মাঝে মাঝেই জানলা দিয়ে মাথা বের করে মনে হয় এই সামনের বাঁকটার পর গাড়ি আর এগোতেই পারবে না আর ঠিক তখনই গার্ডদাদা চোখ পাকিয়ে মাথা ঢুকিয়ে নিতে বলে, নাহলে পাশের পাথরে বা গাছে মাথা ঠুকে যাবে। আর মধ্যে মধ্যে ঝোপঝাড় ঘাসপাতা জানলা ভেদ করে ঢুকে সুড়সুড়ি দিয়ে যায়।

বনছোঁয়া পথ
  
জানলা দিয়ে মুখ বাড়িয়ে

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বনছোঁয়া পথ মনছোঁয়া হয় যখন দুধারে চ্যাপ্টা নাক ছোট্ট চোখের খুদেগুলো অনাবিল হাসিতে টা-টা করে। এখনও! ওদের কাঠের ঘরের গা ঘেঁষে, এর বাড়ির উঠোন ওর বাড়ির কলতলা দিয়ে কু-ঝিকঝিকিয়ে এগোয় খেলনাগাড়ি। রেলিং-এ কালো কালো প্লাস্টিকের মধ্যে রাখা ফুলগাছগুলোকে হাত বাড়ালেই ছুঁয়ে ফেলা যাবে। সত্যি বলতে কি এসব ছবি গাড়ির রাস্তাতেও দেখা যায়, কিন্তু পথের সঙ্গে এমন গা ঘেঁষাঘেঁষি আন্তরিকতা শুধু টয়ট্রেনেই সম্ভব। আর গাড়ির রাস্তা তো এই সেদিনের খোকা। তার বহু বহু বছর আগে যখন এই জঙ্গলে বাঘ-চিতাবাঘ-সাপ যথার্থই গিজগিজ করত, তখন কারা সব এই ভয়ংকর পাহাড়-জঙ্গল ভেঙে পায়ে হেঁটে ঘুরে বেড়িয়েছিল, নিখুঁতভাবে হিসাব কষে বেছে নিয়েছিল সেইসব পাহাড়ি ঢাল, যেগুলি দিয়ে সবচেয়ে কম ঝুঁকি ও ঝামেলায় রেল চালানো যাবে।

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Darjeeling Toytrain
রংটাং স্টেশন

টয়ট্রেন আসলে আমাদের কোত্থাও নিয়ে যায় না। শুকনা, তিনধারিয়া, কার্শিয়ং, সোনাডা, ঘুম, দার্জিলিং – কোত্থাও নয়। ওই যে বললাম টাইমমেশিন। টয়ট্রেন আমাদের নিয়ে যায় অন্য টাইমফ্রেমে। পুরো জার্নিটাই ভাবনার রাজ্যে। ভাবতে না পারলে সাত ঘন্টা ধরে ঢিকঢিকিয়ে যাওয়াটা ভারি বোরিং লাগতে পারে। সেক্ষেত্রে ওই দার্জিলিং-ঘুম-দার্জিলিং পথে দুঘন্টার ‘জয় রাইড’টাই ঠিক আছে। সেলফি-টেলফি তোলার জন্য ওই যথেষ্ট!

 

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”

Well! Still today, we’ve visited only 11 countries of this massive planet.

In Asia, we have been to:

India

Bhutan

Indonesia

Malaysia 

Thailand

Cambodia

Sri Lanka

China

Turkey

In Africa, we have been to:

Egypt 

Kenya

Out of them, we have managed to blog on few destinations of India, China, Egypt and KenyaIf you have queries on the other places, which we have not blogged yet, please feel free to ask.

 

Mawphlang in Winter

We started early from Shillong for our morning-trail in Mawphlang Sacred Forest, which is just one hour drive from the capital city; but what to do? The first rays of sun upon the mist-covered hills made us stop several times on our way to Mawphlang and here, I cannot resist myself to share at least one photograph of the roadside before entering to my travelogue on Mawphlang.

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Morning Mist on the Way to Mawphlang

Finally, after all those attractive distractions, we arrived at Mawphlang! A scenic wonder where dense woods suddenly emerge from a rolling meadow! We got down from the car and saw Bon coming to us.

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Mawphlang Sacred Forest

Bon was the guide for our forest-trail. Now it’s time to follow him. We started walking through the meadow. The sunshine! The morning breeze! The smell of dried grass! And we stopped by the woods on a sunny morning! Well, we will go inside, but before that let us listen what Bon is telling about the monoliths erected just outside the forest.

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The horizontal monolith represents the female deity and the vertical one is regarded as male deity of the Khasi people.

The local Khasi people treat this forest as a sacred entity. It’s an age-old belief is that their local deities protect their forest and their community. Nobody is allowed to take anything out of the forest, not even a leaf or a pebble; it is considered as welcoming curse.

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Twelve stones representing twelve clans of local people. They gathered here to select leadership and discuss other important socio-administrative matters.

Still today holy rituals are performed inside the forest for the welfare of the community. We saw a group of people at distance. Someone of them did something wrong and a ritual of atonement was going on.

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Before any ritual, they gather all the stuffs in this place and there after proceed to the place of the ritual. If they forget something to take, they are not allowed to come back to this place.

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The chief of the community stands in front of this monolith.

I was thinking about big civilizations, big cities, castles, forts, blood-shedding wars! Who knows about these Khasi clans or their kings? Who cares about their rituals, their age-old traditions, and their pride? Everything is and was hidden under the shadow of this dense groove, as unadulterated as possible.

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Mawphlang Sacred Forest

The sun rays scattered through the branches, the branches and trunks covered with algae, the hanging orchids and moss, the mushrooms, the big foliages, the narrow streams flowing through the forest all together was a perfect bliss; a bliss for eye, mind and lungs.

 

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While we were photographing every new kind of mushrooms on our way, Bon said, “Come again during monsoon.” May be in wet season we will get to see more of them!

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Mushrooms of Mawphlang Sacred Forest (Winter Trail)

That night we stayed in MaplePine Farm (Bed & Breakfast) located on the meadow, beside a narrow stream, just 1km away from the Sacred Forest. It was just not a stay, rather an experience! The surrounding are so picturesque, so tranquil that we wished we could stay there couple of days more just doing nothing. The owners of the farm are James, a Canadian guy and his wife, who belongs to Khasi tribe. James has immense knowledge on nature and people of North-East India. We had good times with them.

After the chilled winter night, the dawn came with a jaw-dropping sight. At night the temperature went below zero degree centigrade and the dew drops on the surrounding grass, leaves, branches, fences were got frozen. See what we found that morning.

 

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With times, the frozen dew drops started melting. And it was the time to leave Mawphlang. But we’ll be back again.

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Good bye Mawphlang. See you again.


Mawphlang in Monsoon

And yes! We are back to Mawphlang! Four years later! Meanwhile Bon has started his own home-stay and this time we stayed at his place. This home-stay is far away from the Jame’s place; rather it is inside the village. Heavy and uninterrupted downpour all along the afternoon and evening kept us confined in the room.

No change in the morning! We put on our raincoats and proceeded towards the Sacred Forest. And to my surprise, I found that the dry yellow grass of the meadow had been replaced by bright green grass along with tiny wild flowers; the meadow, the Sacred Forest, everything being drenched by monsoon shower was looking much more vibrant & lively.

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Unlike our winter visit, this time we chose a longer trail, as monsoon adds more charms to this forest. Now let me keep my mouth shut. Get yourself immersed in the Monsoon Magic of Mawphlang Sacred Forest.



How to Go

Mawphlang is located 26 kms away from Shillong on the road leading to Mawsynram.

How to Book

  • For MaplePine Farm, you can get all necessary information like room type, room tariff, meal options, location, guide, mail-id etc from their website: http://www.culturalpursuits.com/
  • For Bon’s Home-stay, call: Bon (+91 84150 61658). We paid Rs 2000 for each triple bed room on August 2017.

10 Things to Remember

  1. If you want to avoid the hustles & bustles of the capital city, you can stay in Mawphlang instead of Shillong. All the sight-seeing spots of Shillong can be covered from Mawphlang. You may visit Seven Sisters’ Waterfalls on your way from Shillong to Mawphlang.
  2. You may visit Mawsynram and Mawlyngbna on a day trip from Mawphlang.
  3. If you are party crowd, DON’T VISIT Mawphlang.
  4. Don’t visit the Sacred Forest without a local guide.
  5. Don’t litter the Sacred Forest.
  6. Make no harm to nature.
  7. Keep in mind that NOTHING is allowed to take out from the Sacred Forest.
  8. Be respectful to the local people and their culture.
  9. During winter carry heavy winter garments. In monsoon, raincoat and umbrella are must to pack.
  10. Wear hiking shoes during the forest trail. Remember that in monsoon, your shoes will get completely drenched.

Umden, a calm & quite hamlet of the Rivoi District of Meghalaya amidst lush greeneries is a perfect place for relaxation, but that was not our key motivation to be there; rather we were dying to see whether Eri Silk is really generated by keeping the silkworm alive or not! Usually in all over the world the cocoon is boiled along with the silkworm and thereafter gets separated. But Eri silkworm is different. It has a whole on one end of the cocoon and when one shakes it by placing the open end downward; the silkworm comes out alive and is kept aside to let it turn into moth, while the cocoon is used to produce silk. This type of silk is named as ‘Eri Silk’; often called ‘Ahimsa Silk’ (non-violent silk) for not killing the silkworms. That is why it is a fovourite textile of Buddhist monks. Apart from Umden of Meghalaya, Eri Silk is produced in other parts of North-Eastern India and other South-East Asian countries. Let us have a look what we have found during our visit to Umden.

After a daylong waterfalls hopping in Cherrapunji, it was a long way to go to Umden. Not much time or energy was left, after we arrived. Therefore, took dinner, used our left over energy (though very little) from keeping ourselves away from the leeches, spiders and multiple flying insects and finally slept in our bamboo cottage.

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Our Bamboo Cottage

There was no hurry in the morning. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast with much chit chat and laughter. Nobody was ready to leave the bamboo-made dining place on the rooftop over the kitchen. It is such a great place for enjoying the lush green surroundings! And it was raining! The cool breeze and the smell of the soil! A perfect bliss!

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The Kitchen

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Black Rice

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Breakfast Served in Leaf-Bowl

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A Leisurely Morning in Dining Area

Polis, a young guy of the guesthouse was coming upward with a basket full of vibrant yellow and green stuffs resembling candies. No they are silkworms! The living silkworms, those were taken out from cocoons! Unbelievably colourful! Polis explained us the entire process of Eri Silk production. We finally left our inertia, followed him and visited few homes and weaving centres to witness everything, which I have already showed in the movie.

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The Silkworms Alive

We were lucky, as it was a market day. Our village-exploration continued to the market-place. Like other markets of North-Eastern India, here also the main sellers and buyers were women, dressed traditionally (here wearing Jainsem, Khasi women-outfit), with children tied up in back, mouths filled with red juice of beetle-leaf, hardworking, still joyful and sociable always.

Umden Market
A Seller in Umden Market

Umden Market
The Buyers of Umden Market

Umden Market
The Watch-Repairer of Umden Market

Umden Market
The Beautiful Smile

Umden Market
The Beautiful Smile

The products selling in a market reflect the lifestyle of local people. In Umden market, nothing was exotic at all. This place is not far from Guwahati, which is a big city, resulting urban touch in village market, though the people were very down to earth. One of the ladies demonstrated us how they wear Jainsem and helped my friend to dress like them.

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Umden Market

Umden market will be memorable for the Jhalmuri we ate there. Our best-tasted Jhalmuri ever! Later, we took our lunch in a small makeshift restaurant in the market area. We ordered Jadoh Rice (Pork Rice), a traditional Khasi dish. Polis said, here they had mixed pork-blood too. Though we did not find any special taste or smell; it was just like a common Jadoh Rice we tasted in other parts of Meghalaya.

Umden Jhalmuri
The Best Jahlmuri Ever

Jadoh Rice Umden
Jadoh Rice

Afternoon-rays of sun spreading over the village path; village-ladies relaxing and gossiping after a busy day; kids playing everywhere, doing all kinds of mischievous activities. Wish we could join them, revisit our childhood days, wished we would not have to go back…… ever…. but it was our last afternoon in Meghalaya! Sigh!

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Village Umden

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Childhood

On our way back to the guesthouse, Polis was telling their folklores, explaining local lifestyle. Sometimes it was difficult to perceive his broken English, but still, this guy had a huge share in our Umden memory. He impressed us by explaining the inner meaning of a poem written by Rabindranath Tagore, which he had read in English translation during his school-days. At night he made Khasi pipes out of bamboo for us. Another guy taught us how to put tobacco inside the leaf and wrap it to make a Khasi cigarette. We smoked one. Had never smoked anything as strong as it! Another man of the guesthouse played flute for us. Someone was playing a string instrument in the neighbourhood. Darkness was all over, mingling with the sound of cricket and occasional little rainfall.

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Making of Khasi Pipe by Polis

“What do you do with the living silkworms?” We asked Polis. “We let them complete their life-cycle. But eat some of them.” Really! When you are in Rome….. we must try silkworms. Polis arranged two dishes of silkworms for our dinner. One of them was fried silkworms, keeping the hard cover intact. Another one was prepared by taking out the inner flesh from inside and cooked with onions and chillies.

Fried Silkworm
Fried Silkworm

Cooked Silkworm
Cooked Silkworm

Though exotic, none of the preparations was tasty. In fact, silkworm itself is tasteless. But how could we know this unless we tasted? We love to experience new things. And what we feel about Umden is that this place is not for everyone, rather for the experience-seekers only. That’s why we assume that the future of Umden tourism would not be bright enough. And we are happy for that. Tourism brings money, but spoils many things. Would she stick out her tongue such spontaneously, if one day Umden gets over-burdened with tourists like Cherrapunjee? I guess not!!

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For Booking – Call: Smt Thran Timung (+91 98626 30041)

Accommodation: We paid Rs 2000 for the Bamboo Cottage (triple bedroom).

Transportation: It’s better to get there by hired car. Umden is 70 kms from Shillong and 67 kms from Guwahati. Before arriving, call them and let your driver know the route.

Temple-towns of ancient era were not only about big temples, rather a kind of cultural hubs, practicing and showcasing multiple sorts of art-forms like music, dance, drama, literature, painting, sculpture, food, and textile and so on. History shows us how a stable and prosperous ruler with good aesthetic sense used to encourage all possible aspects of culture during his time; and the South Indian town Tanjore or Thanjavur was a perfect example of that. The best thing is that it still holds its tradition.

The big Brihadeeshwara Temple of Tanjore must be the highlight of your trip, but here I am presenting the other aspects too, that will help you to explore the place at its best.

 

Brihadisvara Temple of Tanjore

Of course your first choice! Before discussing in detail, let us have few glimpses:

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What you should not skip during your visit:

  1. Perceive the vastness. It is one of the largest temple-constructions of ancient India, built during the rule of the great Chola king Raja Raja Chola between 1003 and 1010 AD.
  2. Here, the Vimana (the tower-like structure over the inner sanctum) is as high as a 21 storied building and shaped like pyramid. Just imagine how they built this marvel more than thousand years ago with the ancient technique of putting stone blocks one over another, making slopes of soil alongside each layer of stones to drag wheel-cart full of stones over the slope. Isn’t it jaw-dropping?
  3. Before entering, take your time to notice the two gates meticulously. These are densely covered with numerous figurines, though plastered by stucco for preservation, but creating the most gorgeous parts of the entire temple-structure.
  4. You will see a big black statue of a bull in front of the main temple. He is Nandi, a guardian deity whom you can find in front of all Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, but remember that here you are standing in front of the second largest Nandi of the world.
  5. The main temple is a massive example of Chola architecture, but the surrounding shrines are built later, during the reign of Pandya, Nayaka, Vijayanagaram and Maratha rulers. Therefore, this temple complex has become a kind of an open air museum displaying architectures of different era. Even if you have zero knowledge on South Indian temple-structure, here you can compare one with another, learn new things and get some insight. Do it. It will be fun.
  6. Don’t forget to notice the murals on the ceiling of Nandi-Shrine, Parvati-Temple and the inner side of the walls encircling the temple complex. Here also, you can pursue your comparative observation.
  7. The lower parts of the main temple are covered with ancient inscriptions. You may not be an epigraphist, but remember that these inscriptions are full of facts regarding the building of Brihadisvara Temple and contemporary reign.
  8. The figures of different deities like Nataraja, Ardhanariswara, Saraswati, Mahishasuramardini, Kartikeya are important to notice, and especially numbers of Dwarpals, that will be found on both sides of every gate or gate-like structure. Even a half-figurine of a European is there on the northern side of the main temple, depicting the trade-connection with Europe in late medieval period.
  9. Unlike most of the other ancient temples built during that time, Brihadisvara is a living temple, still full of devotees. And unlike other living temples of South India, Brihadisvara is not a multi-colored temple; rather eye-soothing sepia maintains its ancient aristocracy. In fact, this is an UNESCO World Hertitage Site, so things are bound to be kept as unaltered as possible. Even after that, you can find colors on the walls, reminding the fact that it was actually colorful in past days.
  • Opening hours: 6 AM to 8 PM. The inner sanctum is closed from 12-4 PM.
  • Estimated time to visit: 1-3 hours
  • Get in: It is situated in the heart of Tanjore. From Chennai, Tanjore is just 7-8 hours journey by train/bus. From Puducherry, it will take 3-4 hours by road.

 

Brihadeswara Temple of Gangaikonda Cholapuram

Yes! There is another Brihadisvara Temple, built in Gangaikonda Cholapuram, about 70 kms away from the city of Tanjore and 25 years later of the earlier one. This temple-structure was financed by the Chola King Rajendra Chola I, who was the son of Rajaraja Chola I, the founder of the former temple. Just like the name, the temple also looks similar to its namesake, only far smaller in size. If you are coming here after visiting the Brihadisvara Temple of Tanjore, you may find it repetitive and of course less massive; though don’t forget to notice the figures on the wall.

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  • Opening hours: 6 AM to 8 PM. The inner sanctum is closed from 12-4 PM.
  • Estimated time to visit: 1 hour
  • Get in: Hire a car from Tanjore and to visit this temple along with the temple of Darasuram. If you are coming from or going to Puducherry, then Gangaikonda Cholapuram will be en route.

 

Airavatesvara Temple of Darasuram

The Brihadisvara Temple of Tanjore, The Brihadisvara Temple of of Gangaikonda Cholapuram and this Airavatesvara Temple of Darasuram – together they are called the Great Living Chola Temples. Airavatesvara is the youngest and smallest among all, built more than 100 years later of the former one during the rule of the King Rajaraja Chola II. Darasuram is about 36 kms away from Tanjore. Though smallest one, but Airavatesvara has unique features:

  1. This is a chariot-temple, just like the sun temple of Konark or chariot-temple of Hampi.
  2. Numerous columns are there, along the inner side of the wall and in front of the inner sanctum. If you notice minutely, you will get amazed to see the diverse collection of column-shapes, column-heads and column-bases. More to this, columns are full of very intricate reliefs exhibiting mythical scenes to scenes related to the daily life of common men. The big temple of Tanjore is a massive structure, but I must say that the intricacy of Airavasvara is unparallel.

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  • Opening hours: 6 AM to 8 PM. The inner sanctum is closed from 12-4 PM.
  • Estimated time to visit: 1-2 hours
  • Get in: Hire a car from Tanjore to visit this temple along with the temple of Gangaikonda Cholapuram. If you are coming from or going to Puducherry, then you can visit both of the temples en route.

 

Tanjore Dance Festival

During the era of the King Rajaraja Chola I, every evening people used to gather in the Brihadisvara Temple complex to cherish classical music, dance and Vedic chants. Beautiful evenings of that bygone era come alive now-a-days for one week. Every year, on the day of Mahashivaratri (falls during February-March) and following seven evenings, classical music and dances are performed here in the temple complex. It is not a big deal to see this type of performance on stage, but experiencing Indian tradition on an age old stone stage inside an ancient temple-complex…it is something different, may be a lifetime memory for you!

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  • Contact Brahan Natyanjali Foundation to get the program-schedule before your visit. Contact No – + 91 98424 55765.

 

Tanjore Painting

Your visit to Tanjore will be incomplete unless you are exposed to the art-forms originated or related to this area. The famous Tanjore painting comes first. I always love to see artisans doing their work, therefore visited one of the art galleries (Contact: +91 80989 95652). Let us see how Tanjore paintings look and how they make it.

 

Tanjore Silk Saree

You will see many lady devotees visiting the Great Living Chola Temples in very shining colorful sarees. These are famous Tanjore silk. If you are not a saree-lover or you don’t like the extreme gorgeousness of Tanjore Silk, even then, you should visit a weaver’s house to perceive how complicated the entire weaving process is. I always consider textile as an art material, therefore, when a man standing in front of Airavatesvara Temple provoked us to visit weavers’ homes just beside the temple, we followed him. There is another town called Ayyampettai on the way to Darasuram from Tanjore; there also you will find many weavers’ house. Usually Tanjore Silk is very expensive, but if you buy it directly from weaver’s home, you have to pay much less.

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Tanjor Silk – The Handloom & the Weaver

Tanjore Dolls

This is a bobble-head doll having the figure of a dancing girl. Due to a simple but unique making, this doll continuously makes dance-like movements with slow oscillations. Initially it was of terracotta material, but now-a-days they use paper mache.

You can buy these dolls in many shops in Tanjore including souvenir shops of Brihadisvara temple, but if you want to see how it is prepared you will have to go to the village named Ammapet, 22 kms east of Tanjore.

 

 

Tanjore Lost Wax Bronze Art

The entire procedure is similar to Dokra art. The artisans of the art gallery (Contact: +91 80989 95652) we visited demonstrated us as follows:

Tanjore Thali

Are you a foodie? Then let your taste-buds get exposed to Tanjore Thali, a meal with vegetarian side dishes that can go up to 10 to 15 in number.

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Tanjor Thali

Belonging from the eastern part of India, Tanjore Thali was a unique gourmet experience for me. There are restaurants in Tanjore and surrounding area with the names ending with –Bhavan, like Saravana Bhavan, Vasanta Bhavan etc where you can get Tanjore Thali from 11 AM to 3 PM only.

A Route Map for Tanjore and the Surrounding Areas

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