This travelogue is Part-2 of the exclusive insight into Bharatpur's forgotten heritage. The same Bharatpur in the western state of Rajasthan that is world famous for its Kaladeo Bird Sanctuary.

05 February 2018, Places I explored Keoladeo National Park, Lohagarh Fort

It was day 2 of our stay in Bharatpur, Rajasthan. We had already explored the world-famous Kaladeo Bird Sanctuary.

After capturing some 45 varsities of birds in our camera, when my husband and I were left with some more spare time, locals informed me reluctantly that there is more to Bharatpur that meets the eyes of the avid bird watcher. And thus began my quest which lead me to the Lohargarh Fort, just two miles away from the bird sanctuary.

I penned this amazing experience as "Lohargah Fort: The Forgotten Heritage of Bharatpur Part 1" in my last travelogue. And today I bring you part-2 of this series. I begin from where I left you....right outside a majestic architectural marvel in sandstone. Take a look!

My urge to discover Bharatpur, beyond the usual attraction of the Bird Sanctuary, pushed me to snake my way through the lanes and bylines of this old capital city of the Rajputana kingdom. And it brought me to the door of "Shri Ganga Maharani Ji" temple devoted to river Ganges.

A two-storey high phenomenal piece of intricate architecture...a perfect blend of the Rajputana & Mughal art. Maharaja Balwant Singh laid the foundation of this temple in 1845. But it took his five generations and an astronomical effort to complete this amazing beauty.

Just take a look at the exquisite designs! Be it the exterior of the temple or the pillars, the roof, the arches or for that matter the parapets....nothing has been left untouched by the artisans of that era.

One look at the exteriors and I could gauge a stark similarity (to some extent) with the South Indian architecture. The head-priest confirms the same. He informs that it took 9 decades to complete this mesmerising piece of art and among the leading architects, were some from South India.

A cool breeze embraces us. The environs are filled with the jingling of the umpteen bells hanging in the main prayer hall of the temple. The priest tells me, no matter whatever be the weather, this breeze flows like a blessings here through the year.

Photography of the main deity, Goddess Ganga's idol isn't allowed. It is a resplendent one in pristine, white marble believed to be resting at a huge crocodile. The temple has a gong which is strong enough for it to be heard from far away....even at the main entrance of the Lohagarh Fort.

I take a look around...a vast, empty ground and in the middle stands the impressive Ganga Maharani temple. Husband and I go click-click-click with the camera. Each of the four sides of the temple has an uplifted-covered and intricately deigned pedestal, where we are told wedding rituals of the royals and their other religions celebrations used to take place.

Near one of these pedestals, is an old well. The legend has that River Ganga even now supplies water to this well. Devotees inform that the temple's beauty is at its peak during the Ganga Dussera and Ganga Shaptami religious festivals, when the royals elaborately and exquisitely decorate this place. But I can that the Ganga Maharani temple is in itself an ornament that decorates Bharatpur. And I wonder how people miss to visit it? Reason is the dense inhabitation around it, that hides it behind the veil of commercialisation. And I simply hope Rajasthan government does something to bring more and more people to witness this beauty.

The Sun is at its warmest and hunger pangs are getting stronger with the aroma of 'Kachoris' constantly tingling my nose. Rajasthani kachoris, dipped in piping hot Potato-Tomato masala currey, are one delicacy to die for! And while chasing this aroma, I accidentally bumped into another masterpiece. The largest mosque of this small town - The Jama Masjid.

As if the backdrop wasn't enough to make me forget my hunger-pangs and pull me to its ambience....the height of the Jama Masjid entrance gate leaves my mouth wide-open! Just take a look!

The ingress to Jama Masjid is flanked by extremely prepossessing minute artwork. Also the several Jharokhas or cantilevered openings, extended pavilions as well as canopies reflect a perfect blend of Hindu and Mughal craftsmanship.

Strangely, not a single person at the mosque can give me one common authentic date or detail about the inception of this huge mosque. Even Google didn't help me much and not even the website of Rajasthan Tourism, which simply threw some photos at me. No wonder, this apathy reflects in NO TOURISTS except me at the place.

Although, it was a sheer coincidence to visit the Jama Masjid at Bharatpur, but I simply enjoyed this unplanned encounter.

The aroma of the Rajasthani Kachoris cannot be avoided for long. So while I take a dig into the same...you book your tickets to this place. It is easily accessible by roads from all parts of North and Central India and has its own railway station as well. The nearest domestic & international airport is New Delhi from where it is just a four-five hour drive connecting you to Bharatpur via the Agra expressway. Another domestic airport is at Agra from where it is just a two-hour drive. And the highway, right near the Bharatpur Sanctuary has the government Guest House as well as many two-to-five star hotels, where you can stay at INR 1000-6000 per night. If you want a homestay, these too are available extremely close to the sanctuary at just INR 2000-5000 per night. Even budget stays are available at INR 500.

Image Courtesy Deegh Palace: Archaeological Survey of India

But wait, the journey to Bharatpur doesn't end here. I will bring more to you, since I will be back here. Because I am told the "Deegh Palace" - some 30km away from Bharatpur - is another must-visit destination. Plus few other lost places in Bharatpur are being brought alive by the state government and remain to be captured by my camera.

I am happy that I have discovered more reasons to visit Bharatpur beyond the famed Bird Sanctuary. And if you too liked this discovery do share this information as well as be a guest here. After all who can beat the hospitality of Rajasthan.

Copyright: Mahima Sharma, Columnist, The India

Author is former News Editor CNN-News18 & ANI (a collaboration with Reuters)

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