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Meenal - The Mini Khajuraho

INDIA | Thursday, 4 September 2008 | Views [1290]

Rajasthan circuit, which encompasses the Western India tourist circuit, boasts of some of the most sought after tourist destinations of this sector.  Much have been written about the major destinations like Jaipur, Ajmer, Mount Abu, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer etc., but the area is dotted with numerous resplendent & mesmerizing but nondescript destinations.  Amongst them one is MENAL, which is about 90 Kms. from Chittaurgarh in Rajasthan.

             To visit Menal, one will have to travel upto Bhilwara or Chittaurgarh.  It is advisable that one visits Chittaurgarh as this Fort city boasts of a Rajput fort whose past is replete with historical characters like Rajput King Prithvi Raj Chauhan, Meera Bai (whose Bhakti towards Lord Krishna was absolute & amazing and her poetical renditions in love with Lord Krishna are sung with equal fervour by devouts all over northern India).  There are other historical anecdotes associated with this place like the jauhar by famed beauty & Queen Rani Padmini to protect her honour from Allaudin Khilji, who had laid siege on this fort for her famed beauty.  There are several such instances of valor displayed by Rajput Kings & queens against face of adversity and this place holds a place of pride amongst the Rajputs for its legacy.  Interestingly this is the only fort that is referred to in masculine gender by the local Rajputs of Rajasthan & around.

            Chittaurgarh is accessible both by road & rail.  It is situated around 600 odd Kms. from Delhi and regular train services on the Udaipur line is available with journey time of 10 hours upwards.  One can make stop-over at Ajmer also as all the trains passes through this holy place.  Other than that there are a plethora of bus services available from Delhi and one can even take a chance by standing at Dahula Kuan from where the busses pick up travelers without booking.  Apart from the Rajasthan Transport Corporation busses, a large number of private operators like ‘Srinath Travels’, ‘Parsavnath Travels’ etc. also operate busses both of ordinary type as well as deluxe ones.  The busses which start from Delhi at around 7.00 P.M. in the evening, reach Chittaurgarh by 9.00 A.M. the next day.  Therefore, the visitors have the whole day to themselves for sightseeing etc.  The nearest airport is at Udaipur, which is about 120 Kms. from Chittaurgarh.  The best period to visit Rajasthan in between late October to early March.  For information one can log onto www.rajasthan.gov.in/CHITTAURGARH.SHTM .

            Menal is also known as the "mini khajauraho", blessed with nature’s beauty, this picnic spot is situated on the Chittaur - Bundi road and is famous for the ancient temples, waterfalls and beautiful forests.  The name Menal is derived from Maha Nal (great gorge).  This temple complex was built by Someshvar Chhahamana and his queen Suhavadevi of the Sakhambari dynasty during the 11th century A.D (circa).  The construction of the main structural group, on the left side of the gorge, is credited to the king while the single temple with a detached monastery across the river is associated with the queen, albeit the foundation inscription has been lost now.  However, the fame of place grew during reign of King Prithviraj Chauhan, as it was his favourite mountain retreat during the scorching Rajasthan summers. For this he had built a palace on the banks of the Menal river which runs over granite slabs before finally plunging into a gorge over 122 meters deep. When it rains, the water flows over the granite rocks and plunges into a gorge 100 feet below into a pool and then proceeds onwards.

            The 11th century Mahanaleshvara temple is a perfect example of the western Indian style of stone temple architecture. The entrance is embellished with a seated stone lion, and there are number of guardian deities carved on protruding panels in the walls. The inner sanctum is dominated by projecting balconies while the roof is a pyramidal array of ribbed and finely carved stone.  The entrance to the mansion is via a two storied gateway carved with images of the gods Ganesha and Bhairava. The square courtyard beyond the entrance houses a huge Shiva temple of stone, built in the ancient Hindu style with a carved pagoda and pillars. The walls of the temple are carved with motifs of Hindu deities and various other themes, interspersed with images of elephants. Of special mention are the images of Shiva and Parvati which form the chief subject of the engravings. Shiva and Parvati are depicted in various postures and surrounded by dancers, musicians, lesser gods and animals. Halfway up the pagoda is a large stone lion. A number of smaller ruined temples lie around the Shiva temple.  Though the main shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva is built in sand-stone, brick-work is visible wherever the surface of the tower covering of the smaller temples (perhaps even older) has peeled off. Before the main temple of Mahanala is a Nandi enclosure, solidly built, but barely sufficient to accommodate the bull.  There are a number of well crafted pillars scattered all around the central courtyard of the temple complex.  One can also walk down the causeway upto the base of gorge below where the air is cool & refreshing and trickle of water falls continuously throughout the year.

Tags: chittaurgarh, india, meenal, menal, rajasthan, temple complex

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