part-1 (dilli to aurangabad)
no clue where the thought got inspired from, but finally i hit the road on the 24th of july with the idea and intention of driving down to kerala in my car. the odometer said something like 19,752kms. start point was gurgaon at around 1 o'clock in the afternoon. my rough calculations said the entry point in kerala would be somewhat 2,500kms away. so no hurry, wanted to see things while i move down south. decided to follow the nh-8 for just a short while and then switch over to some not so smooth but much more scenic roads. stopped after crossing jaipur to have our lunch it was already past 4 o'clock. next we planned to stop at ajmer to meet keshav's family for a cup of tea. keshav was accompanying me for the next few days actually almost the entire first half of the journey then he would fly back from ernakulam on the 4th of august. after are tea break at ajmer, it's always a delight to meet his family, saw their new house, got a sneak preview to the under-construction work for uncle's forthcoming exhibition at jehangir art gallery, bombay.
from their we took the NH-79 to chittorgarh. we reached chittorgarh at around half past ten that night. took refuge in a modest lodge called Hotel Bhagwati.
they had decent terrace where we sat to slowly sip a small peg of teacher's scotch, before we finished our first round it started drizzling and we had to cut short our drinking plans. early morning we drove in and out of the fort, spending around an hour or so.
that was no good thing to do. it's massive fort one needs to pay it some respect by spending atleast a day over there. we followed NH-79 leading us towards madhya pradesh from rajasthan. on our way we crossed ratlam (which reminds me of kareena kapoor in jab we met) we took the mhow bye pass and took on NH-3. so far the roads where narrow and not so smooth. suddenly we reach a 4-lane highway it was a brand new road and traffic was negligible. the landscape was lush green, green not like the dark rich green but light pleasant leaf green. we didn't know what to do stop and enjoy the landscape or keep driving at the top speed to enjoy the recently inaugrated highway. next 100kms was blissfull. by now the sun had set. as we drove through sendhwa and shirpur i guess we where on the edge of madhya pradesh and entering maharashtra. by night we reached a place called dhule around 200kms short of aurangabad. found out a place called swagat logde for the night and dined at a nearby dhaba whcih served us beer along with the dal-roti (had to pay a bit of a premium for the service though), the dal was really good so where the roti's. time to hit the sack having a long days journey ahead. ellora caves was next target. after a while where crossing a place called chalisgaon acting very intelligent we took the bye-pass to aurangabad, this was the biggest disaster of our trip soon we realised the road was no road just a collection of big potholes, and big meant really big. a stretch of around 10kms took around and hour or more i think couple of times i drove on the 3rd gear rest was all 1st or 2nd gear drive i'm sure you can imagine what the place was like. once we where out we took a break for a cup of over sweet tea and some snacks. actually we tried a bit of all the snacks available in the shop.
gaining back our lost energy we headed towards ellora caves by now we figured out that ajanta and ellora caves are not neighbouring each other rather at a distance of more than a 100kms. just before ellora was a small temple and baoli called the ahilyabai holkar tank. it came like pleasant surprise out of nowhere. small but pretty place to take some pictures. soon we where at ellora, parked our car and took a guided auto rickshaw trip which would give us a glimpse of some of the caves though not all of them. the first cave we visited had a beautiful water fall next to it and the cave no. 29 known as sita-ki-nahani
it was a hindu temple with extremely impressive carvings inside, built in the 8th century. the sculptures where huge touching almost the ceiling of the caves at places nice soft light was falling from some very high openings on the roof of the cave. along with the light was trickling down drops of water which would echo in the caves as every drop would touch the ground. on the right side was a passage leading to a path leading us to the next set of cave crossing the waterfall. our next visit was cave no. 32 a jain temple built around 10th century.
the temple is a double storeyed structure and the star attraction seems to be a large monolith elephant. next to it is a large monolith pillar. after spending some more time inside we realised that what is the biggest attraction of this complex where some painted panels fit enough to be picture poscards for maharashtra tourism. even the pillars where very intricately carved. we skipped a lot of the caves coming our way and headed straight to the cave no. 16 it was unbeleivably big people around where looking tiny and thats not all the entire temple is carved out of a single mountain, it is not made in bits and pieces. how could dare imagine something so wild. apparently it took around 200 years to finish the task, looking at the temple 200 years seem less a time taken. whats most important is that it is there for real. no picture can capture the magic, still i tried to shoot some pictures. the temple dates somewhere around 6th to 7th century, locally known as kailasha. not getting into details browse through the pictures it may give some understanding of the place.
back in the car we start driving towards aurangabad suddenly i notice a board giving directions for aurangzeb's tomb did i misread something. not really it soon struck me that the mughal ruler spent his last few years in the deccan so logically his tomb should be around, took a quick u-turn and reach the place which was just a couple of kilometres of the track. a modest looking structure reflecting aurangzeb's modest lifestyle. there is a mazaar and next to it a dargah. everything around is simple and minimalistic unlike tombs of his ancestors who believed in grandeur some of which can be seen in delhi the seat of mughal power.
soon we drive into karnataka and are impressed by their style of road direction boards on the highway. they exactly know how to promote tourism through the road signs and surely make life easier for the travellers unlike maharashtra who can't think beyond bombay or the so called mumbai. in karnataka the road signs had small graphics depicting temples, mosques, wild life etc along with the name of places. it was nice to see how organised they are and the place i.e. the landscape was beautiful it was green all around the plains merging into hills as we go up the western ghats.