Chapter 1 – Antiquity – Ride to North East India

“A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step” – a famous Chinese Proverb.

After touching the Northernmost, Southernmost & Eesternmost tips of India, I wanted to ride towards the Easternmost point of India – which is Kibithu in Arunachal Pradesh. Immediately, I started my research to find out amazing places to visit in Arunachal Pradesh. Finally, after a lot of brainstorming, I decided to change my final destination as Tawang.

Mumbai to Tawang by bike and that too – solo – was definitely not an easy target.

For a road trip of such a grand scale, I was reading voraciously about every state and tourist destination along the way. I wanted to cover most of the places on this single road trip. Travel blogs and Youtube videos helped a lot to finalize my itinerary.

Getting a perfect time window for a road trip was another challenge. I had to consider the weather, road conditions as well as the things going on in my professional life. Somehow I decided to start by the end of April because I can get the proper snow on the high mountain passes to pass through. Monsoon and Winter seasons were out of the question.

Finally, I decided my timeline along with a detailed itinerary and spent my days reading more about the places until the departure date.

In summer of 2018, I took my first step towards the North East India road trip.

Honda CBR 150R

The First Step

21 April 2018

That whole night I couldn’t sleep properly may be due to the excitement. I woke up right on time. Loaded everything on my bike within an hour and left my home early in the morning. Always busy roads of Mumbai were quiet. I got lucky with the signals and traffic.

From Mumbai, I took an Asian Highway 47 which passes through Kasara Ghat, Nashik, Dhule and all the way to Indore. At Kasara Ghat, the Train was running parallel to the road for some time. I crossed Nashik on a very long flyover without even noticing the city. I had a very spicy Misal and a chai for a breakfast somewhere on the highway.

The monotonous ride over the multilane highway in scorching heat was boring but it helped me to cover a long distance rapidly. It was getting too hot here with Mercury rising above 40 degrees. I stopped for a sugarcane juice along the way to hydrate myself. The road was awesome except frequent small speed-breakers which slows me down. The dry and arid landscape looked horrible in the scorching heat.

By the lunchtime, I had crossed more than half distance to Indore. For lunch, I ordered Veg Biryani at roadside Dhaba after Shirpur. I fed my bike also and then I resumed my ride. At Badi Bijasan Mata Mandir, I crossed the border of Maharashtra and Madhyapradesh.

Madhya Pradesh is considerd as a heart of Incredible India, because of its geographical location as well as it’s vivid culture, rich wildlife and historical monuments.

Narmada River

Giver of Pleasure

Late afternoon, I was on the Narmada River bridge. The river has a huge basin and is one of the largest rivers in India flowing westwards. I could see multiple bridges built to cross this majestic river. The children bathing, fishermen fishing & I was busy taking their photos.

Narmada River, a lifeline of Gujrat & Madhya Pradesh, was considered as a traditional boundary between North India and South India, which was forbidden to cross as per the ancient texts. This 6th longest river in Indian Subcontinent, originates from Amarkantak Plateau, flow westwards for 1312 km and drains into Gulf of Khambhat. 

Moving ahead, I resumed my ride towards the north. In a couple of hours, I reached Indore city after riding for around 600 kilometres from Mumbai. My stay was already booked at Treboo Golden Treat in Indore. Although it was small, I like my hotel room. Quickly I took a hot water bath and got ready with my cameras to explore the most populous and largest city of Madhya Pradesh.

I wanted to explore some prominent places in Indore at night. So I took my camera and headed for the Rajwada Palace which was just 4 km from my hotel. But the traffic was terrible. It was utter chaos. There was no discipline at all.

In Hinduism, Narmada River sprang from the body of Lord Shiva & in sanctity Narmada River ranks only after the Ganges.

Rajwada Palace

Rajwada Palace

Late in the evening, I went to the Rajwada Palace, a 7 storied structure, built by Holkars of Maratha Empire 2 centuries ago. The lofty archway’s on the entrance with a giant wooden door covered with iron studs, gives a glimpse of royal grandeur and architectural skills of Marathas. But I could not explore this grand palace from the inside as it was closed for the day. All I could do was to take a few photographs from the outside.

A small garden in front of the palace had a white marble statue of Rajmata Ahilyabai Holkar. The greatest Maratha Warrior Queen of Malwa, Devi Ahilya was a proficient ruler and erudite politician. After losing her husband, father-in-law and only son, the undeterred Ahilya petitioned the Peshwas to take administration herself. Not only she led her armies on the battlefield, but she improved the infrastructure of her kingdom. Her philanthropy reflected in the construction of dozens of temples, ghats, wells, rest-houses stretching from the Himalayas to the pilgrimage sites in South.

With overwhelming gratitude towards this iron lady, who selflessly served her people, I decided to head back to the hotel for dinner. Apart from traffic, my cellular network was another irritating thing, due to which I dropped my plan to visit Sarafa food street.

Hotel staff suggested some 56 food street but again Google maps showed the traffic in red. I did not have that courage to put my bike into it, so I went nearby and had a paneer hot dog n Chiku shake.

Maratha Architecture is known for its simplicity, visible visual logic and austere aesthetic, made rich by beautiful detailing, rhythm and repetition.

Taj-Ul-Masajid

Taj-Ul-Masajid

22 April 2018

Next day, I checked out early from Golden Treat hotel and started riding towards – Bhopal – the capital of Madhya Pradesh. Along the way, I crossed the Kshipra River, one of the sacred rivers in Hinduism where Kumbha Mela takes place.

Taj-Ul-Masajid, literally means Crown of Mosques, is one of the largest mosques in Asia. This huge red sandstone structure has 430 thousand square feet area enough to hold 175 thousand people. Started by Sultan Shah Jehan Begum of Bhopal, the Masajid was built between 1868 and 1901. The mosque has three domes and two minarets and holds a remarkable similarity with the architecture of Jama Masjid of Delhi.

Calling the mosque as a tourist attraction may not be appropriate. I had parked my vehicle outside, removed my shoes in the shoe rack at the entrance. I was stunned by the grandeur of this mosque. Barefeet I strolled around with my camera, with extreme care, took photographs without disturbing the ongoing prayer.

I think I was the only tourist there, not seeking for god, but admiring the hands & will which resulted into such a magnificent peice of architecture.

Sanchi Stupa

The Great Stupa

From Bhopal, I got a single track road towards Sanchi town in Raisen district where ancient stupas are located. I couldn’t believe that the domes in front of me were constructed 2 centuries before Christ i.e. 2200 years ago.

In 262 BC, the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka embraced Buddhism, repentant of the horrors he had inflicted on Kalinga. As a penance, he built the great stupa at Sanchi near the hometown of his wife Devi. The domed edifice holds the sacred Buddha relics, which was obtained by Asoka using his power.

The scorching sun was exactly at the zenith, making it difficult to stand in the heat for a long time. I used that situation to my benefit, to capture photographs without people.

The main Stupa has plastered dome crowned by a triple umbrella within a railing, containing brick stupa of Asoka at its core. A circum-ambulatory path approached by a double stairway is built against its base. The ground balustrade marks another procession path around it. Four ornate gateways, built-in 1st century BC, provide access to Stupa from cardinal directions.

The scenes carved on the gateways generally depict Jataka legends, scenes from the life of Gautam Buddha and Buddhism symbols. 

Ironically, Buddha had taught us peace but there was a war over his ashes after his death.

Northern Entrance

Ancient Glory

Among the four gateways of the Great Stupa, Northern one is the best preserved topped by the broken wheel of law. It is composed of two square pillars surmounted by capitals, which in turn supports three architraves with volute ends. The numerous panels relate various events in the life of Buddha. The gateway still retains most of the ornamental figures. One of the scenes includes a monkey offering a bowl of honey to the Buddha, who is represented by a bodhi tree.

Stupa No. 3 is a beautiful stupa was built during the time of Shungas, who also built railing as well as staircases. The relics of Sariputra and Mahamoggallana, two chief disciples of Buddha are said to have been placed here. It has a single Torana gateway which was built later under Satavahanas, probably in circa 50 BCE.

These oldest stone structures in India, took me back to the era when Buddhism started thriving in a diverse Indian subcontinent. This Buddhist complex has several stupas and other structures which I visited hurriedly due to less time. Before riding ahead, I sat under a tree drinking cold drink for a while – peacefully.

Sanchi has protected these sacred architectural wonders, just the way these monuments are safeguarding the ancient history and art of the Mauryan period.

Dry Forests

Dry Forests

From Sanchi, I had to travel more than 300 kilometres through the dry forests and few busy towns to end up in Khajuraho by the night. More than 30% geographical area of Madhya Pradesh is forested, which is 12% of the whole country.

In summer, these deciduous forests get stripped off their dense foliage. There is a single road from Sanchi towards the Khajuraho, where I had frequent encounters with cowherds and other animals.

Scorching heat was unbearable but as long as I was in motion, I cared less about the extremely hot temperature outside. The National Highway 46, allowed me to bypass Vidisha but later I got stuck in Sagar due to chaotic road. Along the Lakha Banjara Lake, I took a road to Makroniya. From there I got a National Highway towards Chhatarpur. 

Tiredness was all over me. I tried to rejuvenate myself with a tea in Chhatarpur. One hour ride on a narrow road took me to the Khajuraho.

From the largest Islamic Mosque, oldest Buddhist Stupas to the erotic Hindu Temple – What else can I expect from a singe day on a road trip.

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