I visited this place during my second bike trip to Madhya Pradesh. Due to its geographical position and lack of interesting places (that was my assumption), I had it as an option if we saved time from the other more important places. The only thing I knew about Chanderi was that it is famous for the Chanderi Sarees. This place is also missing from the Lonely Planet India Guide, which was another reason for not having it in my must-do places.
Fortunately, we overachieved our target the previous days and off we set to visit this place.
About Chanderi –
Chanderi is located 230 kms from Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh. It is surrounded by hills, lakes and forests and is spotted with several monuments of the Bundela Rajputs and Malwa sultans.
The first written mention of Chanderi was made by Persian historian Alberuni(973-1048). This was ruled by the Mamluks, the Khiljis and the Tughlaqs. Chanderi was an important place strategically since it was used as a base for the military campaigns to the Deccan.
Chanderi prospered in early 15th century during the rule of Malwa Sultans proment among them was Mahmud Khilji. This was the time when a lot of architectural marvels were build including the Jama Masjid. Weaving was introduced in this era.
It was later captured by Babur in 1527. The astonishing part is that when Babur entered the fort, he found that all the women and warriors had committed suicide. Later, it was ruled by the Mughals. Abul Fazl, Akbar’s historian described it as a prosperous city with 15,000 stone houses, 61 palaces and 384 bazaars, 350 camel caravanserais, 1200 mosques, 1200 stepwells, 6659 calalry, 5970 horse infantry and 90 elephants.
It was later ruled by the Bundels and Scindhias.
This was our first entry to the town – the fort.
We passed by narrow lanes leading to some of the places we wanted to visit.
It was Muharram the next day and preparations were on. I have witnessed how this event is observed in Hyderabad. Here it was very different. You can read about the Hyderabad experience here.
In these small places, people don’t make Wedding invitation cards I guess. Since everyone knows each other mostly a part of a big family, the invitations are painted on the walls. I have seen similar stuff in Jaisalmer as well.
This place is also deeply linked to Sufi tradition. Hasrat Wajihuddin, a close disciple of Khwaja Nizamuddin Aulia of Delhi was the most popular sufi saint of Chanderi.
Very intricately carved tomb of Sheikh Nizamuddin’s decendants. here we found two enthusiastic children who took us around.
The Badal Mahal Gate with fort in the background. This gate was built in 1450 to serve as a welcome gate to the city.
Chanderi city from the top of fort.
The Jouhar smarak built to commemorate the jauhar (suicide) of 600 Rajput women when Babur captured Chanderi.
Jauhar tal – the source of water to the fort where the Rajput women jumped to perform Jauhar.
Tomb of Baiju Bawra (1542-1616) – the reknowned singer and court musician of Raja Mansingh of Gwalior.
Legend has that Baiju, after a failed love affair with a local girl found solace in music. He practised with so much intensity that people used to call him Bawra (mad) and hence his name. Baiju, during a competition won against Tansen, the best musician on Akbar’s court.
This black-stone Shiva-linga has 1100 small lingas on it.
It was a very peaceful place with no-one around.
Many a times, I don’t want to loose an opportunity to click while on the go. These ladies in colourful sarees were returning from Kartik month puja.
The Laxman temple on the banks of Parameshwar Tal.
Shahzadi Ka Rouza
The adventurous ride to Chakla Baoli.
Chakla Baoli – one of the hundreds of step wells in Chanderi.
Holy smoke is spread across on the eve of Muharram.
View of the fort
Way to Kati Ghati
Kati ghati Gate: The gate is been used since its construction as the entry gate of Chanderi for visitors & guests from Malwa & Bundelkhand.According to an inscription on this dramatic gorge, the gateway was cut out on the orders of Jiman khan in 1430 during the Ghias Shah, Sultan of Malwa. The passage that leads to the gate is worth examining in some details & as a 15th century defensive structure its really fascinating as well.
Shri Digambar Atishay Khandagiri – this was one of the best surprises we got in Chanderi.
Carved into the rock of a vertically rising cliff 700 years ago, is a splendid 14 m high statue of the Jain tirthankara, Rishabhnath. Further up are a cluster of small rock-cut caves with a number of Jina images.
Jama Masjid, which dates back to 1251 is one of the most beautiful architectural wonders of Chanderi.
Now the most important reason why Chanderi is famous – the gossamer silk sarees. While returning from the Jain temple, we visited a village Pranpur which is like the hub of the weavers. It was great to interact with the weavers. Unfortunately, not many weavers are allowed to sell the sarees directly to the customers; they work under a rich merchant and are paid very less. It takes about 2 weeks to make a saree. Sadar bazaar is the best place to buy them.
This post will be incomplete without a big Thanks to Madhab, my friend who accompanied me for this 2500 kms trip around Madhya Pradesh on his Royal Enfield Thunderbird.
This post is written by Saurabh Chatterjee. He is a travel photographer and a photography trainer.