That fateful day dawned at Ujjain. Ujjain was not part of my plan. So why did I go there? Did lord Shiva lure me? No! a fatso did. More on that a little later, but for now I was on my way to Gwalior. It was a hot and humid day. Driving on the worst road of the trip, my car got stuck in mud twice. Combination of German engineering and Indian driving skills saved the day. Me and my friends needed a good bath and so did my car. No sooner than we entered the city, we drove straight to a car wash. We were so exhausted, and sight seeing plans that evening was called off.
Leaving behind my friends, I took an evening stroll around my hotel to have an idea of places I plan to visit the next day. Gwalior is a great city and nothing more. I talked my friends out of the original two day plan in Gwalior.The glasses clinked as we raised a toast for great days ahead.
Like a stubborn drill sergeant, I drove my friends to the famed Gwalior fort through the western side, early in the morning. The weather was pleasant, but I was dismayed at the sight of healthy citizens of Gwalior. The reason to reach the fort early was to avoid the crowd. We drove around the magnificent fort for a while before exiting, only to stop at the remarkable Jaina rock cuts along the road.
Mostly cut into the cliff face in the mid 15th century, they represent nude figures of tirthankars (the 24 great Jain teachers) and were defaced and castrated by Babur’s muslim army in 1527. These figures made the western entrance worthy a visit.
Finding food became a priority, but we were told that it was too early for breakfast. Grumpily, we decided to check out the eastern entrance of the fort and Man Singh Palace. The eastern entrance was dramatically different from the west. Set in a dirty neighborhood, walking through the crowd became a nightmare. We could relax only after we reached the entrance of Man Singh Palace. Built by Tomar ruler Man Singh in 1508 A.D, is a fine example of early Hindu architecture consists of two open courts surrounded by apartments on two levels. Below ground lie another two levels constructed for hot weather connected by speaking tubes built into the wall. This was pitch dark and we needed torch. The hawks (tourist guides) noticing the situation offered to lend their torch light for 200 bucks each. Irritated by these pesky hawks, we declined their offer and decided to skip the underground levels.
My German friends and me parted ways, with them heading to Agra and me to Ujjain. Ujjain, a religious place for Hindus was not on my plan. I was urged by my very close friend to pay a visit, to witness Bhasma Aarthi. Although not religious, this very unique ritual intrigued me. To gain entrance to this ritual, I had to get a pass the previous day. Braving the delays and confusions, I got my pass. With abundant time in hand, I decided to take the “Ujjain Tour Bus” for sight seeing.
At 3:00 A.M, my eyes barely open, I made my way to the temple to witness the ritual. I was well in advance and stood in the queue to be seated in the sacred auditorium. Striking up a conversation with an old lady was the only way to keep myself awake. I barely noticed the time when I heard crescendo of mixture of vedic chants, drums and bells. A rumor started spreading among the crowd that a VIP had come for the ritual hence we would be denied entry for security reasons. For me, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was so furious that I jumped out of the queue and made my way to the parking lot. It was an unproductive and unpleasant experience which marked Ujjain as a place I would never visit in this lifetime.
Standing at the traffic signal on my way out of Ujjain, a young boy came running to my car to sell flowers. Noticing my complete disinterest he whispered “God will bring back those he could not meet the first time”. I had no idea what he meant, but atleast it put a smile back on my face as I drove off.
PS: Btw, that fatso my was my friend.
Gwalior: Place To Stay:
Hotel DM (Ph No: 2342083)
Near Railway Station