Ahilyabai & the flourishing tourism of Madhya Pradesh.
Awakened to a sunny Raipur this morning. Raipur is the capital of the relatively new state of Chattisgarh. i am here for 6 nights, and being hosted by a friend at the erstwhile Rajkumar College, for the next 4-5 days. Rajkumar College, was a school made for the British Gentry and the children of royal families before Independence India. A lot of the royalty from the nearby states of Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh send their children here. Its a very wide and big school, spread over 125 acres or so.
RKC has a very peaceful vibe; lots of landscaping, sculptures around, a hall named after Sri Rabindranath Tagore, and one can often hear the happy chuckles of children as they make their way about these archaic buildings, reminiscent of the time that has flowed here.
As, i write, i am Listening to “Namo namo”- from the movie Kedarnath. A song that beautifully catches the divinity of Lord Shiva.
“O lord Shiva, by taking your name, my Tamas(Inertia) is gone. What can i call bad, what can i call good? when everything is your play!)”
The Mahashivratri, just finished a few days ago, and Lord Shivas glories were being echoed out by many all over India, all throughout the night.
( This link will give a glimpse of the Shivratri Celebrations at babajis ashram in Vapi, Gujarat!)
"Ahilyabai's extraordinary ability won her the regard of her subjects and of the other Maratha confederates, including Nana Phadnavis. Collecting oral memories of her in the 1820s, Sir John Malcolm, the British official most directly concerned with the 'settlement' of central India, seems to have become deeply enamoured of her. "With the natives of Malwa ... her name is sainted and she is styled an avatar or Incarnation of the Divinity. In the most sober view that can be taken of her character, she certainly appears, within her limited sphere, to have been one of the purest and most exemplary rulers that ever existed".
I remember once staying up late at Haidakhan ashram, on the occasion of Shivratri, and being fortunate to celebrate this holy and electric festival up until atleast 3:30 am in the cold night night of Haidakhan, in Uttrakhand, India. The cold was getting to us, and ditto for sleepiness, but we tarried on in the name of Shiva. There is also said to be the second Kailash hovering right above the Haidakhan Ashram. I think they call it the Kurmanchal Kailash. It looked Holy & Haunting at that time of the night, with the stars looking brilliant and shimmering. Finally, i gave into my sleep and went for my room, whereas a few more spirited ones stayed back. This was 2015 or 2016.
On the way to Raipur, my plane stopped at the city of Indore. Finding myself quite pleasantly surprised by the vivacity of the airport, i went straight to the Tourism bureau, and spoke with one young lad called Ashish. i was very surprised with the kind of tourist footfalls that are there in Madhya Pradesh now.
They are clocking in 15 crore tourists in 2018 end, whereas 2016-17 stood at 7.5 Crore Tourists. I found this news incredible, as that means more economies being potent in the area, and more incomes, work and movement, for everyone in the State.
Prime Minister Modi believes that Indias highest income generator is tourism, even much above Information Techonology. But for that to materialise the Prime Minister also believes that India needs to live upto the cleanliness ideal.
Indore as a city is said to be Indias cleanest city.
Madhya Pradesh has over 20-25 Wildlife Parks. So Tiger-Spotting, Leopards, Bears etc, are ample here to be seen. Some very good boutique properties have also come up here, for the discerning and luxurious travellar. I think that the mid-segment hotel options are not as good, and can be improved. Say, when i researched on google the very holy and beautiful town of Omkareshwar, i found very few quality hotels. Mostly, average in style and competence. I hope that more takers in the private sector and others, will take this up more seriously, and make Omkareshvar an inviting place, keeping accomodation standards in mind, of travellars.
Other places very worthy of visiting seem to be Jabalpur, Orchha, Mandu, the many wildlfie sanctuaries, Amarkantak, Bhopal, Gwalior etc.
I got really taken to know more about Ahilyabai Holkar, a Maratha queen, who ruled MP for quite some time. Many have said that in her reign, everyone was so happy, and that she was known for being a great leader, humanitarian,a lady of deep religiosity and peace. The Bharatiya Sanskritikosh lists as sites she embellished, Kashi, Gaya, Somnath, Ayodhya, Mathura, Hardwar, Kanchi, Avanti, Dwarka, Badrinarayan, Rameshwar and Jaganathpuri. Ahilyadevi also supported the rise of merchants, farmers and cultivators to levels of affluence, and did not consider that she had any legitimate claim to their wealth, be it through taxes or feudal right. To honour the memory of Ahilyadevi Holkar, in 1996 leading citizens of Indore instituted an award in her name to be bestowed annually on an outstanding public figure. The Prime Minister of India gave away the first award to Nanaji Deshmukh.
An English poem written by Joanna Baillie in 1849 reads:
"For thirty years her reign of peace,
The land in blessing did increase;
And she was blessed by every tongue,
By stern and gentle, old and young.
Yea, even the children at their mothers feet
Are taught such homely rhyming to repeat
"In latter days from Brahma came,
To rule our land, a noble Dame,
Kind was her heart, and bright her fame,
And Ahlya was her honoured name."
Rahul Godara. Scattering these words unto the vastness, from the Rainforest House,
in Jonk, Rishikesh. March 15, 2019.