Road Trip to Madhya Pradesh — the sprawling landscapes of Central India
The popular tourist destinations generally preferred by the State tourist are Himachal Pradesh, Darjeeling & Sikkim for Summer while Goa, Munnar, Alleppey top their Winter list. Madhya Pradesh (M.P.), our neighboring State till the other day rarely comes to mind.
In 2018, we thought of exploring this beautiful State (of M. P.) having rich cultural history as also natural resources, beside three World Heritage sites declared by UNESCO viz the Khajuraho Group of Monuments, Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi and the Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka.
Discussed the M.P. road trip plan with my travel buddy, Mr Bindhyachal Singh and we decided to visit the State during the Durga Puja holidays. The places we chose were Khajuraho, Jabalpur, Amarkantak and Maihar and the road route that was to be taken were Patna (Bihar)— Allahabad (U.P.)-Khajuraho-Jabalpur- Amarkantak — Maihar (all four in M.P.) -Vindhyachal (U.P.) — Patna.
The official site of the Madhya Pradesh State Tourism @ MPSTDC was of great help in doing our homework. It also runs chain of Hotels at all places.
Destinations confirmed, stay at MPSTDC Hotels decided; it was time to move as we impatiently waited for the day.
Sunday, October 14th, 2018
Drove out of Patna early morning alongwith better half, Madhu for Allahabad enroute Madhya Pradesh. Our daughter, Dipti (based outside Bihar) could not make it as she wanted to be in Patna during ‘Diwali’ festival. Took the Bihta — Arwal road (NH139) and crossed the Sone river just after Arwal town driving on Sahar — Nasriganj excellent State Highway.
Reached old NH 2 (New NH19) popularly known as Grand Trunk Road at Nasriganj around 10 AM, crossed Sasaram Toll Plaza and moved towards Varanasi. My friend, Mr. Bindhyachal Singh, along with family started their journey two hours behind at 7.30 AM and as I was moving at lesser than self prescribed speed, he caught me up at Mohania toll plaza itself.
We later got stuck in the huge traffic jam at Dafi toll plaza near Varanasi. It took almost hours to reach Bhadohi, just 60 kms away. Bhadohi is famous for its carpet products. Lots of highway construction work has curtailed the movement on NH 2 and it was only by late evening that we were able to reach Allahabad. Checked in at Hotel Triveni Darshan, the UPSTDC manned beautiful Hotel at Kydganj on Yamuna Bank near Sangam. Relaxed, strolled in the campus and chatted with friend. Patna to Allahabad via Varanasi is approximately 400 kms.
Monday, 15th October, 2018
Woke up early morning. Walked around Yamuna bank along with friend and later took care of our cars. It was a pleasant morning and time to explore M.P., the sprawling landscapes of the Central India. Our first destination was ‘Khajuraho’, the UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its temples built between 950 AD and 1050 AD by the Chandela Kings.
After breakfast and chatting with Mr. Upadhyay, the Manager of the Triveni Darshan, left Allahabad. Crossed the nearby old Yamuna bridge and within few minutes we were on the highways connecting Allahabad to Chitrakoot on way to Khajuraho. The Chitrakoot route was under construction and as such faced some bottlenecks /bad patches.
Chitrakoot has the distinction of having its presence in two States; U.P. and M.P. situated on the banks of ‘Mandakini’ river. While the region falling within U.P. comes under Chitrakoot district, those in M.P. is a Nagar Panchayat under Satna district. Stop over at Chitakoot for lunch, spent some time there and moved on towards Khajuraho driving on a good highway (NH 39)amidst the mountains. Unlike Bihar — U.P. route, the traffic is scarce and driving becomes pleasure.
As the sun started setting in the west, we completed the climbing along the hilly area and later crossed the Panna Tiger Reserve. Reached Khajuraho, 25 kms from Panna around 7 PM and checked in Hotel Jhankar, the MPSTDC manned hotel situated at Shilpgram close to the temples. Around 300 kms were driven.
The location, hospitality and the cleanliness of the Hotel stumped us in this city with a population of 12000. After sumptuous dinner, we went out for a walk. Peaceful, clean, quiet and beautiful, this is how, ‘Khajuraho’ can be described. The dream of visiting this city came true as we sat on the footpath chatting for long hours.
Tuesday, 16th October, 2018
Rose early and went out to see the mesmerizing beauty of the city; the sun rising to the constant chirping of the birds and water droplets on the leaves. The Hotel too is beautiful. There is another MPSTDC Hotel Payal in Khajuraho which is equally good but Hotel Jhankar is centrally located.
Just outside the hotel is the Sculpture roundabout. Strolled for a while with the better half. Later my friend too joined me and we chatted with the locals for a while. After two days drive, it was a relaxed morning as we were staying at Khajuraho the entire day.
We took our own time in getting ready. Delicious complimentary breakfast with smiling hotel staffs to serve, the morning was really good. We finally drove towards the Western set of temples built by the successive Chandella Kings. It has ticket entry. Every aspect of the human life has been carved out on the stones of the set of temples built side by side in a huge campus. We remained there for close to two hours.
We later visited the KEN ‘GHADIYAL’ SANCTUARY, around 20 kms from the Hotel. It also has ticket entry per person plus vehicle charge and mandatory Guide charge who accompanied us in the car. After spending some time there, returned to our Hotel rooms as although Khajuraho has cool evening, the day remains hot.
In the evening, we again visited the temples to watch an hour light and sound show with ticket entry. The cool garden, the light moving on the temples with the voice of Mr Amitabh Bachchan narrating the history in the background complete the show. Worth watching. As it was ‘Dussehra’ time, also visited nearby market where the local kids were performing on the stage. Very pleasant evening. As usual, after the Dinner, went for a walk.
Today our destination was Jabalpur, around 250 kms from Khajuraho famous for Marble Rocks at Bhedaghat and Dhuandhar Falls. Jabalpur is an important city of M.P. and beside the Principal Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, several Departmental Head Quarters are situated here.
Our journey started close to 11 AM after having complimentary breakfast. Mr.Suyog, the gentleman at the Reception wished us happy journey. Soon we were on the track crossing Panna Tiger Reserve one more time. The road between Khajuraho and Panna Tiger Reserve was not good and at time dangerous. But these were the only eyesore. Later we drove on the well laid NH 30. In Madhya Pradesh, greenery and mountains can be witnessed at short intervals.
We stopped at a highway restaurant around 2 PM for lunch. With my friend around, we don’t have to bother about food. Just relax, listen to Hindi songs and watch him ordering the items. Half an hour later, we were again on track. Entered Jabalpur when the sun was setting in the west.
Our booking was with Hotel Jabali Palace close to Bhedaghat. Good hotel, excellent campus and polite man at the Reception. The Hotel has ‘Machan’ restaurant in its garden and like the name, one has to climb a ‘Machan’ to take food. Both food and environ were good. Bindhyachalji later took us to the local ‘Puja Pandals’. Returned late night and soon were fast asleep.
Thursday, 18th October,2018
Our next destination was AMARKANTAK, just 200 kms from Jabalpur. Appreciation for the man at the Reception who took care of our cars and got it showered.
We were ready by 10 AM and moved towards Bhedaghat/ Dhuandhar falls. Parking at Bhedaghat is scarce and if it is full, there is great risk of leaving vehicle anywhere as goods laden trucks keep moving. So it is important to park the car at an appropriate place.
The moment we alighted from car, the boat owners surrounded us offering boat ride all quoting different price(s). No negotiations required .There is a Nagar Parishad office on the banks of Bhedaghat where receipts of lesser amount can be taken for the Boat ride.
We took the boat ride and with Bindhyachalji in his usual jovial mood, those half an hour on river ‘Narmada’ between white marbles was really enjoyable. Later we purchased small marble memento.
We spent an hour at Bhedaghat. It was time to move to Dhuandhar falls which had ticket entry. The sound and the fury of the water falls with the Ropeway moving over it gives panoramic view. Jabalpur needs a day stay as this nature blessed city cannot be rounded off in few hours.
By 2.30 PM, we left Jabalpur and were cruising towards the beautiful road full of greenery to Amarkantak. Had lunch on a highway restaurant. The NH 45 route to Amarkantak has everything a road traveler would love to see i.e. the valleys, streams, forest etc.
Finally, at 8 PM, we entered the Holiday Homes, the MPSTDC manned Hotel at Amarkantak. The Manager, Mr. Sharma welcomed us. After freshening up, we came downstairs for our Dinner. Later, both friends went for a walk towards the nearby ‘Narmada Udgam Sthal’ and sat there chatting well past midnight. Some tourists too joined us and we had good time. It is a cool city with a population of just 8000 people.
Friday, 19th October, 2018
An early riser, witnessed the Sunrise from the balcony of the room. The serene atmosphere, silence being broken only by the birds, one has to be there to feel the beauty.
Amarkantak is a small town with all its viewing places within 2–3 kms. It was our rest day. Once my friend was out of room, we strolled in the campus, ordered tea & took care of our respective cars.
Had our breakfast and then we moved to some of the nearby destinations. Amarkantak is not only the meeting point of Satpura and Vindhya ranges; it is also the ‘Udgam Sthal’ (source of origin) of rivers Narmada Son and Johilla. Also visited the the SRI YANTRA MANDIR, DUDH DHARA and JAIN TEMPLE.
Later in the evening, witnessed ‘NARMADA AARTI’ at ‘Narmada Udgam Sthal’ temple and spent some time there. Returned to our Hotel and post dinner, went for walk. Day six of our trip came to an end.
Saturday, 20th October, 2018
Time to move to another township of Madhya Pradesh. Mr. Sharma, the Manager provided us the route chart for our next destination, MAIHAR, around 270 kms away. The initial SH 9A route to Maihar is through Shahdol and Bandhavgarh National Park (where we had our lunch). For visiting Bandhavgarh National Park, one has to leave the highways and move 12 kms inside. We returned to the Highway on way to Maihar crossing the beautiful landscapes, rivers, mountains.
We were inside the Maihar town around 6 PM and checked in the spacious MPSTDC Hotel Surbahar, close to the ‘Maa Sharda Devi’ temple. Freshened up and walked with dear friend towards the Temple. Had dinner in the Hotel restaurant. When in Hotel Surbahar, must taste its delicious ‘Paneer’ preparations. It being temple town, only vegetarian food available.
Sunday, 21st October, 2018
It was a relaxed Sunday. Walked towards the Temple Ropeway, got our tickets and joined the serpentine queue. No need to purchase ‘Prasad’ in the morning as it has to be deposited at the base camp itself for which they provide coupon and can be taken back after alighting.
Finally our turn came and the Ropeway took us to the temple of ‘Maa Sharda’ situated on the Trikuta hill. After offering prayers, we remained there for long watching the panoramic view of the city from the hill. The story of ‘Aalha’ and ‘Udal’, the two brothers — warriors of Mahoba can be heard everywhere. It is their belief that after the temple is closed, the two brothers still come to worship the goddess.
Returned to our Hotel and after lunch, retired for a while. Later, in the evening, we walked across the road and spent some time in the local market. Small township and peaceful atmosphere just energizes the body and the mind.
Monday, 22nd October, 2018
The morning hour of Maihar too is pleasant. Time to pack our bags and move to Vindhyachal(U.P.), 250 kms journey. Left around 11 AM. The road for the next 50 kms was under construction and as such had to face some difficult moments. Later, the NH 30 road was good. Had lunch at Highway Retreat of MPSTDC.
We were in Vindhyachal by 5 PM. Checked in and later witnessed the ‘Sandhya Aarti’ at Vindhyachal Mandir.
Tuesday, 23rd October,2018.
Although our original plan was to return to Patna but everyone was lazy and we finally extended the trip for a day. Once the stay decided, just sat inside the campus soaking under the sun, chatting, listening to music, having ‘Poori- jalebi’ and all that.
Later, in the afternoon, visited ‘Kali Khoh’ and ‘Ashtbhuja’ temples. My friend, named after this place used to come with his family regularly during his childhood. He took us to some important places unknown for a tourist. In the evening hours, we once again sat in the campus chatting for long.
Wednesday, 24th October, 2018
Time to return. We started our journey in the morning and took State highways to CHUNAR. Had some local shopping there. Reached TENGRA MORE which connects the Chunar road to NH 2. Soon we were on the Varanasi — Mohania (NH2) highway. Had lunch at Sasaram. Entered the State highway at Nasriganj and were at Arwal by 5 PM. With a cup of coffee sitting outside the restaurant at Arwal highway, we witnessed the beautiful sunset.
Finally, at 8 PM we were back home after completing around 2200 kms journey hassle free and in a very pleasant manner. The landscapes, the natural beauties and the hospitality of the State just floored us. Now that the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board too has launched the “Intezaar Aap Ka” campaign to attract tourists, some other destinations of the State are just on our cards.