These past few months, I have focused on travelling to cities of cultural and historical importance near me. In this blog, I share what I have learned and how I have changed through my experiences.
The first stories I was ever told were Mahabharata and Ramayana. As I walked across the Gwalior, my fascination with these Indian epics re-emerged. As a child, the stories of flying chariots and ten-headed demons enthralled me. Yet, whether it was my idea that ancient history had little impact on my life or the burdensome names and timelines I was forced to memorize, my interest in history slowly waned.
Starting in February I began to plan trips to places I wouldn’t ordinarily travel to. The first place I visited was Omkareshwar. Apart from its natural beauty, Omkareshwar is known for being a holy city. In the past, I haven’t had a particular interest in visiting temples, but Omkareshwar was a refreshing experience. In a town without much modern development, what surprised me was how prominent and ubiquitous places of worship felt. My road trips often had impulsive detours to another well-preserved, random temple in the middle of nowhere. Without tall buildings to blur the history of the town, almost every corner had another centuries old temple.
I observed the same pattern in Maheshwar. Though I had heard of Ahilya Bai, the queen who dedicated her life to the people after deciding not to commit Sati, I was unaware of how devoted she was. Apart from the famous textile industry, the Ahilya Bai fort contains hundreds of religious statues and dozens of temples in and around the fort. One, unsurprisingly, is even located in the middle of the river Narmada, which itself is considered a holy river.
Gwalior, however, was the most interesting of the three places. The walk within the fort is about 12 km which covers the palaces and various museums. The fort, where, interestingly, one of the oldest records of zero was found, was occupied by kingdoms ranging from the Sikh to the Maratha, the Mughal, and the East India Company (the most evil company in the history of mankind). This can clearly be seen in the varied architecture within the fort (which also contains large Jain monuments).