A Mukherjee World View


Solo in MP: Gyaraspur

For the trip to Gyaraspur, I roused myself at 6.30 a.m. – an ungodly hour when on a holiday – to catch the 7.30 bus from Sanchi to Vidisha. The bus came at 8.00. It wasn’t even a bus, but one of those large, rumbling jeeps where people are packed in like cattle for the benefit of an uncomfortable ride without a ticket. I was fortunate enough to find a bus leaving for Gyaraspur as soon as I reached Vidisha, but it was still close to 10.30 by the time I reached my destination. It took 2 hours for a journey of less than 40 km from Vidisha, on a single lane, somewhat tarred country road.

Gyaraspur was little more than a village, and an exceedingly remote village at that. There were several monuments of interest here, but given the degree of interest my presence in the vicinity of the bus stand was generating, I didn’t feel too enthusiastic about traipsing off into the wilderness. At a rough guess, I would say Gyaraspur gets an average of one tourist a year, with 90% of all tourists arriving in parties of 10, making the probability of a single tourist just one in ten years. When you factor in the probability of the single tourist being female and Indian, I would make it one tenth and one-tenth again. Which made me the attraction of the millennium.

The Athkhambe (eight pillars) was literally nothing more than a group of eight pillars, standing close to the bus stand. It was very picturesque, but the iron bars and firmly locked gate prevented me from going in and having a good look at it. Across the road I spied a notice board pointing the way to Mala Devi Temple, 1.3 km down the road. I set off and within 300 m the village had trailed off and I had another 1000 m to go. The road was deserted and rising steeply. I followed it all the way up, encountering along the way two humans and a flock of goat.

The temple, deserted and ruined though it is, was well worth the climb. It was neatly and skillfully perched in the hillside, its innermost chambers actually merged into the rock. It stood right on the very edge of the hill and commanded a pleasant view of the fields below. It was said to be a Jain temple, dating back to the ninth century.

Twenty minutes’ brisk walk brought me back to city centre. On the way down, I stopped very briefly to take pictures of the Hindola Torana, which was locked on the way up, but was open by the time I returned. This was the eleventh century gateway to a Hindu temple, of which practically nothing remained.

Next, I headed back down the main road, towards the sign pointing to the Bajra Math, which I had seen from the bus on my way in. It was downstream of the bus stand and just a little off the main road. It was pretty enough from outside the locked gate.

So much for Gyaraspur. I boarded the next bus out of town, for the long, slow 40-km ride and got back to Vidisha by 2 pm. Which gave me enough time to get back to the stupas at Sanchi for a scenic sunset.

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