Madhya Pradesh Travel itinerary

Below is the map depicting our Madhya Pradesh trip, mostly we followed this trail exactly, spending 2 nights at each Major stop. Total 6 days trip.

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( Gwalior – Day 1 & 2 detail post here)


Day 1

2:00 p.m. Reached Gwalior by train / by flight via Mumbai
Checked in to Neemrana Deo Bagh [Rs.5000/- per night for double room, complimentary breakfast, Free WiFi everywhere in campus – booked via Booking.com]
3:30 – 7:00 p.m. Hired auto to roam around town, places covered were –
Jai Vilas Palace museum, Tansen Tomb, Sun Temple, Moti Mahal, Chowpaty, Bahadura Sweets at Naya Bazaar and several other landmarks of significance in Gwalior. Sampled chaats and savouries (tip: don’t try it at chowpaty, it is better in rest of town market stalls)
8:00 p.m. Dinner at hotel

Day 2
Breakfast at hotel. Hired taxi with historian/guide with help of INTACH Gwalior
9:00 – 11:00 a.m. Gwalior Fort tour (entry Rs.15/-), Fort backyard palaces tour (Entry Rs.25/-)
11:00 a.m.Packed Poha for lunch, headed to Morena to see Mitawali | Padhawali | Bateshwar (40 kms/1 hour drive)
On way detour to Shani Dev mandir
Recommend to cover Mitawali first, as it has a slight trek to top, then head to Padhawali & later retire and relax at Bateswar temple complex. We had the packed lunch in the taxi here itself.
4:00 p.m. reached Gwalior
Evening spent at hotel, exploring ruins inside hotel campus

(Orachha – Day 3&4 detail post here)


Day 3

Breakfast at hotel, pack lunch for Poha+Jalebi from roadside vendor
3:00 p.m. headed to Jhansi in hired taxi (4-5 hour drive) Rs.3500/- for drop only
5:00 p.m. Requested taxi to stop at Datia Palace a bit before Chhatarpur (60 kms before Jhansi)
6:30 p.m. reached Jhansi, hired Auto to reach Orachha (25 kms/1 hour ride) Rs. 300/- for the ride
8:00 p.m. Checked into Orachha Resort tent stay [Rs. 2500/- per night for double bed luxury tent, complimentary breakfast, WiFi only in Reception lobby – booked via Airbnb]
Dinner at resort.

Day 4
9 a.m. Breakfast at resort
Walk to Orachha Palace/Fort (entry Rs.10/- valid for entire Oraccha), hired the guide who often hang around the entrance. There is fixed Guide fees as displayed on boards, Rs.470/- for small group.
9:30 – 11:00 a.m. Covered Jahangir Palace (Orachha Fort) & Chaturbhuj temple on foot.
11:00 – 12:00 Due to heat and high temperature we hired a auto (Rs.100/-)to reach Laxmi temple and the Cenotaphs complex
1:00 p.m. lunch at a restaurant on the fort entrance
went back to resort, sun was too hot to stay out.
5:00 p.m. went back to market area to catch some hot tea and samosa.
5:30 p.m. walked to the other side of Betwa River, to catch a cool spot and dip our feet in. With lot of difficulty and search found a clean spot, stayed there till 6:30, until a family barged in and their little one took a piss in the water close to us 😦
7:30 p.m. walked to Raja Ram Temple to witness the daily Aarti (can be missed, nothing spectacular, unless you want to see the ancient Ram idol, long lines and waiting time of about 30 mins)
Dinner at the market, and headed back to resort.

(Khajuraho – Day 5&6 detail post here)


Day 5

Breakfast at resort
9:00 a.m. Hired taxi for Khajuraho (4-5 hrs drive) Rs.2500/- for drop only
On way, taxi driver showed us Chhatrasal Fort ruins near Chhatarpur
1:00 p.m. reached Khajuraho, check into Hotel Harmony [Rs.1500/- per night for double room, no breakfast, WiFi at Rs.100/- in lobby and rooms – booked via Booking.com]
5:30 p.m. walked to Western temple complex, it closes at 6:00 p.m. (entry Rs. 30/-)
6:30 p.m. English Sound & Light show at the Western temple complex
(English one suits foreigners more, sounds quite unauthentic even with voice over by Amitabh Bacchan himself, Hindi show is better, at 7:30 p.m. Entry Rs. 200/- for Indians)
7:30 p.m. Dinner at Raja Cafe beside the complex.

Day 6
Original plan was to head for Panna National Park in the 6 a.m. safari, but unfortunately our hotel did not get us the tickets in time. The morning safari is always better and longer than the 3 p.m. one, but we had to take the afternoon one.
9:00 a.m. we had breakfast at Raja Cafe
10:00 a.m. bought another ticket to western group of temples, as we hadn’t checked them out well last evening in hurry.
11:00 a.m. Hired taxi to visit southern and eastern temples (Rs. 1500/- to cover all temples at Khajuraho and get dropped and picked at Panna NP for safari)
1:30 p.m. headed to drive to Panna National Park to buy 3 pm safari tickets. (this is a huge waste of time, better make sure your hotel books a ticket online for you a day before – we missed it) This is a huge con being run by M.P. Forest Department, the online tickets can be booked a day before only before 5 p.m (basically you can’t find this info online and can’t be booked without an agent). Every ticket costs Rs.1500/- + Guide fees another Rs.400/- + Safari jeep which is mandatory costs Rs. 2500/- (jeep cost is not mentioned officially anywhere) >> all of this amount can easily be split among 4 people, as the jeep has seats for 4. BUT no one will let you do that, they send separate jeeps for each group out there.
3:00 – 6:00 p.m. Safari ride around Madla & Nekatrana region in Panna NP.
7:00 p.m. Back to Khajuraho, freshened up at hotel and headed for dinner at Raja Cafe.

Day 7
Flight back to Bangalore from Khajuraho (via Delhi/Mumbai)
7:00 a.m. I took taxi back to Jhansi from Khajuraho to catch a train from Jhansi.
On way checked out Baruasagar Fort & Chhatrasal Fort ruins in Chhatarpur.
11:00 a.m. at Jhansi railway station to head back.

Overall  budget of the trip was on higher side, as there are limited means of public transport, and lot of time constraints. Did not face any safety issues traveling solo or as group of women, taxi guys and hotel staff were friendly throughout.
You can read about details of this trip for Gwalior, Oraccha & Khajuraho.

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Madhya Pradesh Part 3- Khajuraho

We drove from Orchha to Khajuraho in a taxi [Rs.2500/- for the drop]
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On way our driver took us to see ruins around Maharaja Chhatrasal Museum, beside NH 39.

Also the Baruasagar Fort, which falls in U.P. as the M.P. & U.P. borders get crossed several times while taking NH 39.
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We reached Khajuraho by afternoon. We checked into Hotel Harmony [Rs.1500/- per night for double room, WiFi for Rs.50/- per day per person, booked at Booking.com] had our lunch from hotel restaurant (which was horrible) and waited for sun to mellow down to step out.

We had asked our hotel staff to arrange for a next day morning safari ticket for Panna National Park, but they somehow hadn’t done it, and when we reached we sort of missed on asking them to confirm it. By the time we followed up with them, it was 5:00 p.m. and all tickets were sold out already on the website. Safari tickets for both timings have to be bought a day before online via agents in Khajuraho, in case you miss, you need to hire a cab to drive all the way to Panna National Park gate and stand in queue to buy the tickets an hour before the safari starts. Finally we had to bank on afternoon safari.

We finally got out at 5:30 p.m. to check out the Western group of Temples near by. Khajuraho is more organised and looks way too posh for ancient ruins, given the kind of foreigners pouring here this can be expected. The markets are like any other tourist destination, full of same old stuff, but you can bargain here like no other place.

There are other campuses, the southern & eastern group of temples, for which you can hire a auto to cover in Rs.300/-. Since we were not going for Morning safari, we had time to cover all these place next day. We asked our taxi guy who we brought from Orchha, as he was around, to take us around and drop and pick at Panna after that. He offered a very reasonable price of Rs. 1500/- for the entire day’s ride around Khajuraho, as opposed to locals auto/taxi guys asking for Rs.2500/- to Rs.3000/-. (I have mentioned our Taxi guy’s contact at the bottom of this post, he does trips all across M.P. and up towards north as well)

Southern temples are part of Jain temple complex, which is an old stone structure, painted and renovated now.                                                                                    img_20161010_120608

Eastern temples are more scattered around, most important one being a Chatrabhuj Temple, with the most beautifully carved statue as shown in picture in a stack above.

Through out our stay in Khajuraho, we found Raja Cafe really comforting, with a nice menu and AC seating area. Prices are same as Bangalore, so a bit on higher side as compared to places around M.P. We had our breakfast, lunches and dinners there itself.

We left for our Safari at 12:45 p.m. from Khajuraho to Panna National Park Madla gate. The place isn’t exactly organised, and you’ll come across lot of shitty Govt. style of handling things. The counter for buying tickets is a joke, the guy responsible turns up just minutes before safari starts, and all jeeps and guide flank the place to finish their fish for the day.

On the board only charges mentioned are Safari ticket for Rs.1500/- & Guide fees for Rs.360/-, rest you will be asked for random commissions and the safari jeep has extra cost of Rs.2500/- not mentioned anywhere officially . People usually blurt out any number at you when you ask, so make sure to ask them repeatedly about the total amount expected.

Overall the visit to Panna was serene, even though we did not spot any major wild, the rain made the weather pleasant and and enjoyable ride.

We returned back with our taxi, that waited outside the Park, to Khajuraho hotel by 7:00 p.m. Had dinner at Raja Cafe and headed back to prepare for next morning to leave Khajuraho.

You can read about rest of places covered in Gwalior & Orchha. Our detailed itinerary

For Taxi you can reach Bir Singh Yadav at +919109773211 for trips all across M.P. and even U.P. or Uttarakhand

Madhya Pradesh Part 2- Oraccha

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My friend from the group joined me in Gwalior, we hired a taxi to get dropped at Jhansi, we continued to Oraccha in an auto (costs about Rs.300/-). We reached Oraccha by evening, with detour to a place called Datia on the way.

The reason we chose a taxi instead of a train to Oraccha was my greediness to check out some more historical locations on the way to Jhansi. Before Oraccha, I will tell you about Datia.
I hadn’t come across Datia Palace and Fort during my research for the trip, but only heard about it my INTACH Gwalior facilitator. At Gwalior Fort museum I saw pictures of Datia Fort and Palace, and I knew they were too precious to be missed.
I was so right. The small town is spectacular and full of old rustic buildings.
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The Palace was built by the Bir Singh of Orachha as a guest house, he never stayed here, as he would live in his Palace in Oraccha. But this Palace is so beautiful, some paintings inside are still intact. Thankfully a caretaker was available who took us for a tour of the Palace. We climbed upto 5th floor for breath taking views inside as well as outside the Palace, it has more 2 floors which are closed. The pictures I’m posting do not do justice to the magnificence of this place, so I just stopped clicking and soaked in whatever I could in my memories. Unfortunately this town is not under M.P. ASI’s or Tourism Department radar, and hence not at all being maintained. But if your taxi guy or any guide tries to divert you from this place as missable, or because no tourists visit it, please insist, and go there. Make this place famous!

From the Palace you can see the Datia Fort on a small hill in farsight. Due to disinterest of my friend and also the unwillingness of our driver, we did not go to the Datia Fort. I wish I could. I definitely will do it someday! It has a nice museum as told to me.

The other building you see in foreground, it was supposed to be the Jail building.
The other palace campus you can see from the Bir Singh Palace, is the actual residence of the King of Datia. It is off-limits for tourists as the the descendant family still stays there, probably only one person (as told to me by Mr. Vikas of INTACH), they are not in a very good state and looking to convert the property into a heritage hotel.
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Now about Oraccha.
Since we reached in the evening, and our resort staff wasn’t very helpful in giving directions, we did not pay much attention to the town, also none of the beautiful buildings were visible in the dark.
The next morning was much more interesting, as our tents at Oraccha Resort were located right beside the Cenotaphs.
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Oraccha is full of historical buildings and temples. The Palace was built by the King of Oraccha, Bir Singh Deo, it is called Jahangir Mahal because he gifted it to Jahangir (Salim), son of Shahjahan, in order to provide him safe house while he was in danger of being assassinated. But the story is that people of Oraccha never considered any King for themselves other than Lord Ram Chandra himself. Bir Singh Deo’s son, Madhukar Shah was the one who built the Raja Ram Mandir as part of a bet he held with his wife. You will hear that story few times on the trip so I shall spare the narration here.

The 3 major monuments in Oraccha are the Jahangir Palace, Chaturbhuj Temple & the Laxmi temple. Raja Ram mandir is a renovated version which is more of a pilgrimage location.

Jahangir Mahal: It is quite huge with about 7 stories, narrow passages and stairs that take you up to different floors. All across the buildings are mesmerising paintings, some of which are still intact. The Govt. hasn’t yet woken up to restoring these beautiful pieces of art, and our great indian tourists have made every typical ugly-fying act to spoil them as usual. The Campus has 2 parts, the Jahangir Mahal & the King’s Mahal, where the King resided probably. The main entrance is actually beautiful and sort of hidden unless someone leads you there, the back entrance is being used for entering the campus. There is a vast expanse beyond this entrance, one must take a walk and explore.

Chaturbhuj Temple: The temple was originally built to seat the Lord Rama, whose idol Madhukar Shah’s wife was to bring from Varanasi. As per the story, some twists of tale happened and Lord Ram was never enshrined in the actual temple built for him. Instead, the current Raja Ram Mandir was supposedly Royal womens’ quarters where the Queen placed the idol in the kitchen assuming it to be a temporary location until the real Temple building reached completion. But as the story narrates, Lord Ram never left or allowed to displace from the first spot itself. Its a lovely story, narrated by a local would sound more interesting.
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Laxmi Temple: This is the most unsuspecting place. While going to it, no one would warn you about the beauty you are about to witness (If you are an admirer of art!). This place is full of amazing artwork. I had to take videos of the artwork as it was just not getting better documented using photographs. Video either isn’t doing much justice.

There are several other places I read about like the Raj Mahal, which is now a heritage hotel resort in Orccha. Other is Rai Parveen Mahal, which to my surprise the guides conveniently missed on mentioning. It is in front of the main entrance of Jahangir Mahal (that I have mentioned earlier). I kind of felt it was unfair to not let me walk in the field in front of the main entrance, I saw it from the top floor, it looked so enticing, but due to lack of time probably I did not insist.
img_1897Thankfully I did find it in my photographs, the building you see in the Rai Parveen Mahal, it is completely ignored for now, and has some wall paintings still intact. We can only pray that they don’t get spoilt as the palace remains completely unattended at all times. It apparently has  a main entrance too and a grand campus, partially visible in this image. I wish someone took possession of this place and restored it, I wish I could do that.

I may have mentioned earlier, photos cannot do justice to the places you visit in M.P. This happened to me both in Datia and Oraccha, I just had to put my camera down as nothing came out well in the picture with the same magnificence I was witnessing with my naked eye.

How to reach:
From Gwalior to Oraccha trains are available, you can book anytime, most of trains have seats available.
To reach Oraccha from anywhere else you have to either take a train to Jhansi, or take a Flight to Gwalior via Delhi/Mumbai. (Air India Flights only, which are highly unreliable, get cancelled anytime)
We took taxi, From Gwalior taxi was for the price of Rs.3500/- to get dropped at Jhansi. For a drop till Oraccha the taxi was asking for Rs.4500/- which was clearly too high given the distance between Jhansi and Oraccha is a mere 25 kms. Later we figured this was a very expensive deal, from a Taxi guy in Oraccha, whose services we continued to use because of his reasonable charges and good nature until the end of our trip. (You can reach Bir Singh Yadav at +919109773211 for trips all across M.P. and even U.P. or Uttarakhand)

From Orchha we headed to Khajuraho. You also can read about Gwalior, and our detailed itinerary.

Madhya Pradesh Part 1-Gwalior

After Rajasthan, M.P. has always allured me for the variety of heritage treasures it possesses. Oraccha & Khajuraho being on my radar for a long time, while planning and realising the proximity I decided to add Gwalior into my plan.
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How to reach:
From Bangalore flying into Gwalior has to be meticulously planned, as there are no direct flights. If you find the right flights at the right time, you will be in Gwalior within half a day. Unfortunately only Air India operates to Gwalior from Delhi & Mumbai, which is always uncertain and prone to being cancelled anytime. My friends couldn’t make it due to last minute cancellation, and so I’m doing this city – solo.
Another alternative could be to fly to Delhi, and then take any superfast train to Gwalior (many options!)which is a mere 4-5 hour journey. Given the comfort and ease of booking trains in 2016, I would definitely go for this option. AC coaches have become really luxurious now..wow!
I however reached here by train from Nagpur, which is another headache. Its a good 12 hour journey, and all trains either required boarding or alighting in the middle of night. So I decided to board after midnight from my familiar station, rather reaching at odd hours in an unfamiliar city. To my horror the entire 2AC bogey was empty, I walked to adjoining bogies to find a seat near some people (which wasn’t more than 2-3). In general it was empty, and till the next day upto Gwalior it remained so. I kind of enjoyed the peace and quiet. The train staff whoever passed offered all the courtesy and help to make the single woman traveling feel comfortable. Thankfully.

Within India atleast, it is very true that you will find the best guides to a place at the railway station, NOT at the Airport or the Hotel. Coming out of the station, I got the first auto guy who asked for a reasonable price to drop at my hotel, and eventually on asking he was to be my chauffeur for rest of the day 😛 It cost me 500/- for a couple of hours.

Day 1:After checking into Neemrana’s Deo Bagh property in Gwalior, I asked the auto guy to pick me up for the city tour. I was really interested in staying at a heritage accommodation, even though it burnt a hole in my pockets, but its worth a shot once in life – afteral I work my ass off to earn that money. The place is rustic, quiet and serene, amidst vast expanse of ruins from 17th century.
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I freshened up and left on my auto to explore the city. There are too many old ruins from centuries ago that are inhabited by people, mostly encroached upon and abused. Most of the times, you can spot the Gwalior fort while driving around the city.

My 1st stop was Jai Vilas Palace Museum– a privately maintained museum owned by the Scindia Family (of political fame). I was told the place has been recently renovated to match world standards. I was pleasantly amused at the standards, it was very close to what you will come across in museums in foreign countries. The Scindia style pagdi is something of uniqueness to their family, as shown in the picture. Apart from that they had various party and dining halls adorned with chandeliers and expensive decor.
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Although personally I felt the stuff in the museum wasn’t that great if you start comparing Royal museums in rest of world, because most of it was foreign valuables owned by the Scindias over the last century, plus lot of traditional woodwork furniture. There is also a vehicle section, where you’d find a Reva size BMW along with other carriages.

I utilised rest of the evening checking out other tourist attractions, and sampling chats and savouries across town.
The Sun temple is clearly missable, it was built by the Birlas as a tribute of some form in 1980s. I was told several times while interacting with the people through my trip, according to local people, the Sun temple ever since built has not been a good omen for Gwalior’s economy.
Moti Mahal is sitting in ignorance, with filth and almost dying water body around this beautiful site. Govt. offices have rented most of the heritage buildings in this location for a mere fees of Rs.1/- per month, which were formerly resided by the Scindias. Govt. is definitely not doing much to maintain the heritage structures. You can see them in shambles. Scindias now officially reside in part of Jai Vilas Palace.
Teli ka Mandir is an old structure of historical significance but empty with no shrine inside.
Saas-Bahu temple, got its name from the fact that the Royal family mother-in-law & Daughter-in-law visited this temple respectively assigning themselves 1 of 2 temples constructed on the hill near by to the Fort. I think before this the temples were named Sahastrabuddha temple, not sure.
Daata Bandhi Chhod Gurudwara is an important pilgrimage spot for the Sikhs, as their Guru here has a significant contribution to the history of Gwalior, where the Royal Kings of this region were confined by the cruel Aurangzeb in the 17th Century.
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Food:
You must try the traditional Poha and jalebi breakfast, I missed the jalebi as it is only available till 9 am, post that all stocks will get over all-over the town. Bahadura sweets motichoor laddoos were a hit, just melt in your mouth!.
My breakfast spread at Neemrana’s was definitely amazing, loved it.

Day 2: I started my morning with Gwalior Fort, as the previous day I was too late. It closes by 5:30 p.m. daily, and Light & Sound show happens around 6:30 p.m. or so. The Fort was built in 16-17th century by the King. It is built on Gopachal Parvat, which was surrounded by a river in previous centuries, now it is dead, and has concrete area built on it for people to sit out. The fort is a beauty and full of ancient wisdom showcased in the architecture and design of the structure. Outside has natural colours used which have survived till now, used with glass tiles and limestone. It is said the tombs were initially painted with real gold paint, which has wore down now. It has 7 floors in total, out of which you go up to -3 underground. The light and wind have been beautifully brought into all floors using intelligent techniques like mirrors and narrow cavities in the walls.
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Do take a guide to take you around the fort, there is something about the narration that will make you understand the space better, other wise you might not even notice how architecture and design allowed the place to function so well.
As told, the King had 9 wives. The 9th wife however was a peasant’s daughter, unlike other ones who were of royal lineage. The King met his 9th wife, named ‘Mrignaini’ by him later, on one of his hunting trips to jungle where he found her fighting with a wild bull. Mesmerised by her beauty and courage, he decided to marry her. The Gujari Mahal was built specially for her, it sits at the foot of the hill, having a secret passage from the main fort through the hill to this palace (passage closed now).
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The Gopachal parvat is home to a more ancient site, the Jain caves and larger than life carvings on the stones on the way to Gwalior Fort. They belong to the 600th Century. If you haven’t researched much, you probably may not even notice them, no guide really talks about it or draws attention to it. It is a pilgrimage location for Jainism. The 52 ft Bahubali statue will amaze you, and feel amused how you did not notice it without being pointed at.
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Rest of the day I had hired a cab with help of INTACH Gwalior Chapter facilitator Mr.Vikas, a Professor practising in Gwalior. A historian accompanied me through the day. It was an expensive affair, but as I was visiting Gwalior alone, I wanted to make sure I visit all places with an informed person, instead of struggling alone and scraping for good guides (based on my last trip experiences). After Gwalior Fort, we headed to the outskirts to visit less-known locations in and around Morena.
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We travelled about 40 kms from Gwalior to Morena, to visit temples of Mitawali, Padhawali & Bateshwara (sequence in image left to right). We briefly stopped at Shanidev Mandir, believed to be the only temple shrine dedicated to Shani Dev in whole of India – the original one.
Mitawali: famously known as the original inspiration for the design of Lutyen’s Parliament Building in New Delhi, only inverted. This place was a delight to be at, peaceful, thankfully no tourists, nice breeze blowing and practically endless walk around the circular shape among the columns. I walked around twice, and I just could not figure when I reached the only door in the circular campus, the circle was being itself – endless. There is a functioning Shiva temple at the centre, I offered some fruits and relaxed in the empty temple.
Padhawali: The collapsed main temple, still has its entrance building intact, which is so beautifully carved, it leaves you scraping your imagination how would the main building look like. Named after the village it falls in, the place was used as a mandappa for important events by the kings. The temple entrance has intricate carvings about Ram Sita swayamvar, and the 9 avatars of Vishnu. My guide believed the last Avatar ‘Kalki’ is yet to incarnate into this world, as we have not reached Kalyuga yet. According to him, Kalyuga would be when no one cares about no one, for now we still do care about each other. He said the location of birth of ‘Kalki’ has been defined to be in Delhi, which is a written prediction in the books. Amusing.
Standing at Padhawali, you can easily spot Mitawali on the next hill slightly in farsight. We next headed to Bateshwar, the place I was pining to be at ever since!
Bateshwara: This place has all its credits to the ASI, The Archeological Survey of India interestingly is responsible for revival of this beautiful location. As every Govt. body, every region has a independently functioning body, in M.P. it is attributed to the dedicated officials like Mr.Muhammed and his subordinates. Probably may not be true in other regions of India, the more ignorance you see, blame it on the careless officials that region has unfortunately. In Bateshwara however, even though the funding has been stopped since a year, the ASI workers continue to maintain the place out of sheer dedication on a bare minimum wage. I was told by the caretaker the Funding is on its way and work should resume post Diwali. The place was dug out from a mound of mud-hill, put together like pieces of puzzle since 2005. If you walk around, you will still see carved temple blocks stuck in the muddy hill around the complex.

Overall the 2 day stay in Gwalior  was pleasant and fruitful.
From here I headed to Oraccha & Khajuraho. Our detailed itinerary.