India on the Road

From Mathura to Khajuraho

A boat in Mathura
A boat in Mathura
19 JUL 2016
by

Route: Mathura – Agra – Morena – Datia – Jhansi – Niwari – Chhatarpur - Khajuraho
Distance: 478 Kms.
Driving Time: 10 Hours.
Notes: Driving through the heartland of India from Mathura – abode of Lord Krishna to Khajuraho – the temple town, where stone figures of “Apsaras” or celestial maidens pout and pose for the entire world like Playboy models, is journey of epic proportions.

In terms of population, this region is the most densely populated and in terms of variety it is second to none. This is one of India’s great historical and religious centers.

Historically the region has also been a center stage of great events. Over two thousand years ago this was an integral part of Ashoka’s great Buddhist empire. More recently it was part of the Moghul Empire. Today, of course, Agra is famed for that most perfect of Moghul masterpieces – the Taj Mahal.

Geographically, the heartland of India has great variations. From the awesome Gangetic plains replete with immense flatness, which suffers great floods during every monsoon.

The people of this region are predominantly peasants who scratch a bare existence from the overcrowded land and is the dwelling place of some of India’s most colorful tribes like the Gond and Bhil tribals. An overwhelming majority of the people are Indo-Aryan who speak Hindi and follow Hinduism.

The journey from Mathura to Khajuraho passes through a region, which is full of contrasts and surprises.

Mathura

From Mathura – the start off point of the journey, take the NH-2 to Agra. This is a site of great historical importance. According to legend this is the place where Lord Krishna was born 3500 years ago. Today Mathura is an important place of pilgrimage.

The city’s most important bathing ghat is the Vishram Ghat, where Lord Krishna is said to have rested after killing a tyrant king. Mathura is so full of Krishna reminders that even the “Hare Krishnas” have their colossal temple here. Even today, you can see the “Potara Kund”, near the Katra Keshava, where baby Krishna’s nappies or diapers are supposed to have been washed.

Mathura was mentioned by Ptolemy and by Chinese travelers Fa Hien (410-410 AD) and later on by Hiuen Tsang (634 AD).

What to See:

Potara Kund, Keshava Dev Temple, Juma Masjid, Gita Mandir, Dwarkadhis Temple, Vishram Ghat, Sati Burz, Kangsha Quila, Museum at Dampier Park, the ISKCON Temple.

Where to Stay:

Hotel Madhuvan, Hotel Geet Bhawan, Hotel Surjya International, Mangaldam Tourist lodge, Gaurav Guest House, Hotel Nepal, Hotel Sanjay Palace, Hotel Kwality, Mohan Hotel, International Guest House, Kishan Bhawan, Brajabasi Guest House, Hotel Manasarovar, Best Western Radha Ashok, Navanit Atithi Griha.

Where to Eat:

There are hundreds of Dharamsalas in Mathura, all of which serve delectable North Indian vegetarian fare. Try out the traditional Rabri, Dahi, Panra, Khaja and Petha. They are very popular with visitors.

What to Buy:

Handicraft items and statues of gods of the Hindu pantheon.

Agra

From Mathura continue to drive on NH-2 to Agra, which is located at a distance of 52 Kms.

Agra of course needs no introduction. In particular Agra has its magnificent fort and the monument which many people have visited India solely to see – the Taj. Situated on the banks of the Yamuna River, with its crowded alleys and its predatory rickshaws, Agra is much like any other North Indian city, once you are away from the imposing reminders of Moghul splendor.

The old part of Agra is north of the fort where the Kinari Bazaar is located. The cantonment area to the south is the new town, which is popularly referred to as the Sadar Bazaar.

What to See

Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, Motif Masjid, Diwan-I-Khas, Diwan-I-Am, Octagonal Tower, Jehangir’s Palace, Itmad-Ud-Daulah, China-Ka-Rauza, Ram Bagh, Jami Masjid, Akbar’s Mausoleum, Kinari Bazaar.

Where to Stay

Agra being a tourist city, a variety of accommodation options are available. Some of the renowned hotels of Agra are – ITDC Hotel Agra Ashok, Hotel Mumtaz, Hotel Galaxy, Hotel Clarks Shiraz, Navotel Agra, Hotel Sunrise, Hotel Mansingh, Mayur Tourist Complex, The Trident, The Oasis etc…

Where to Eat

Agra is every bit a Mughal city and the food available here is reflective of that Mughal heritage. Kebabs, Tandoori Chicken, Biriyani, the delectable sweetmeat – Petha are never to be missed. Some of the popular restaurants of Agra are – Hotel Jay Hind, Hotel Jaiwal, Lakshmi Vilas, Prakash Restaurant, Kwality, Chung Wah, Sabitri Restaurant, Zorba The Buddha, and Sikander Restaurant.

Where to Shop

Leather goods, marble carvings, ivory products, metal handicrafts. Some of Agra’s best shopping neighborhoods are – Kinari Bazaar, Sadar Bazaar and the shops at the Taj Complex.

Morena

As you drive along the NH-3 from Agra, you will come across the quaint town of Morena, which is located at a distance of 86 Kms.

By entering Morena, you are actually in the famed “Chambal” region of Madhya Pradesh, popularly referred to as the “land of untamed wilderness”. Morena has quite a few archaeological sites and monuments that are of interest to visitors and some of the monuments found here dates back to the medieval age.

What to See

Sihoniya, Kutwar, Padawali, Mitawali, Sabalgarh Fort, Chambal Sanctuary, Pahadgarh, Nareshwar Norar and the monuments from the Mughal period.

Where to Stay

Deori Eco Centre, Hotel Radhika Palace (Near old bus stand).

Where to Eat

Delicious North Indian vegetarian fare at the roadside restaurant. They are moderately priced and are served hot.

What to Buy

Ethnic jewellery.

Datia

Datia is a small city located in the state of Madhya Pradesh on the border of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. If ever there was a hidden treasure in the tourism map of Madhya Pradesh, it has to Datia. In the days of yore, Datia used to be a part of the state of Bundelkhand and was ruled over by the unputdownable Rajputs and the Bundela’s. Datia is replete with temples and is popularly referred to as “Mini Vrindavan”.

The old town is encircled by a stone wall, and there are magnificent palaces and gardens inside. The 17th century palace of Bir Singh Deo is one of the finest specimens of Hindu architecture.

What to See:

Peethambra Peeth, Sonagiri Temples, Unao Balaji Sun Temple, Satkhand Mahal, Rajgarh Palace and Museum, Gujjara, Badoni, Seondha, Bhander, Botanical Garden, Pancham Kavi ki Toriva and Udnu Ki Toriva.

Where to Stay:

Madhya Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (MPSTDC) has its fabulous hotel here – “Tourist Motel”(Tel:07522-238125), which offers comfortable accommodation.

Where to Eat:

Although there are numerous roadside-eating joints in the main part of the town, it is advisable to dine at the MPSTDC run Tourist Motel, which has its own in-house restaurant.

What to Buy:

Traditional handicrafts of M.P.

Jhansi

From Datia continue to drive on NH-75 to Jhansi, which is located at a distance of 32 Kms.

Jhansi may be a small town but this is the domain of India’s “Joan of Arc” – the one and only Rani Lakshmi Bai who fought gallantly against the British colonial rulers during India’s Freedom Struggle in 1857.

The Fort is the center of attraction in Jhansi, which was built by Orcha king – Bir Singh Deo in 1613 AD. The Marathas had captured the Fort in 1742 and renovated it. Later in the year 1803, it was the turn of the British to capture this impregnable Fort.

What to See:

The Fort, Shiv Temple, Ganesh Temple, Memorial Board, Rani Ki Mahal.

Where to Stay:

Hotel Virangana, Hotel Samrat, Hotel Bhavna, Hotel Highway, Chandra Hotel, Jhansi Hotel, Hotel Raj Palace, Prakash Guest House, Kanishka Hotel, Hotel Gaurav.

Where to Eat:

Nav Bharat Restaurant at Shastri Nagar is very popular. Thali meals are available at Railway Refreshment Room. Hotel Sita and Hotel Samrat too have earned a name for themselves when it comes to serving high quality food.

What to Buy:

The best places to shop are Manik Chowk, Sadar Bazar and Sipra Bazar. Antique items and glass bangles are great mementos.

Niwari

From Jhansi, the next stopover point enroute to Khajuraho is Niwari, located at a distance of 34 Kms. Continue to drive on NH-75 and cross Barua Sagar. Niwari is small town located in the district of Tikamgarh in the state of Madhya Pradesh. It is within driving distance of Jhansi. It is the only town of Tikamgarh district, which is connected by Indian Railways. According to folklore, in the medieval era, there was a fort, which was later on destroyed by the Marathas.

What to See:

Khedpati Hanumanji Temple.

Where to Stay:

Tikamgarh Rest House.

What to Buy:

Wood works, embroidered handlooms, pottery items, gold and silver jewelry.

Chhatarpur

From Niwari, your next destination is Chhatarpur, located at a distance of 102 Kms. on NH-75.

The town of Chhatarpur is a district headquarter. Prior to independence, Chhatarpur was a princely state. After India’s independence, the erstwhile rulers of Chhatarpur agreed to merge with the state of Vindhya Pradesh and later on in the year 1956, Chhatarpur was included in the newly created state of Madhya Pradesh.

What to See:

Jatashankar, Arjunkund, Bambar Bainiji, Mata Temple Harpalpur, Ken Gharial, Maharajpur, Naogaon, Chachai waterfalls and Hanuman Tauria.

Where to Eat:

Decent North Indian vegetarian fare is available in the town’s eating joints on the Main Road.

What to Buy:

Local handicraft items and traditional jewelry.

Khajuraho

On the last leg of your journey from Chhatarpur to Khajuraho, which is located at a distance of 47 Kms., continue on NH-75 and at Bambitha turn left and continue driving.

The temple town of Khajuraho is one of India’s major attraction. The temples, of course are superb examples of Indo-Aryan architecture but it is the decorations with which the temples are so liberally embellished that has made Khajuraho so famous.

These temples were built during the Chandella period, a dynasty that survived for five centuries before falling to the onslaught of Islam.

The temples are in three groups – on the modern part of Khajuraho is the Western group of temples. A kilometer or so east of the Bus Stand is the old village of Khajuraho and around the village are the temples of the eastern group. Finally, there are the two southern group temples, further to the south.

Apart from the temples, Khajuraho is a delightful place to wander about. It is restful, interesting and laidback.

What to See:

Eastern, Western and Southern group of temples. It is important to bear in mind that the Khajuraho temples follow a fairly consistent design pattern and it’s pretty well unique. Understanding the architectural nuances here and some of the terms used to describe them will help you to appreciate the temples more.

Where to Stay:

Madhya Pradesh Tourism run Hotel Jhankar, Hotel Payal, Hotel Rahil and Tourist Village. Other hotels like Hotel Khajuraho Ashok, Oberoi Jass Hotel, Hotel Chandella, Hotel Lakeside, Holiday Inn and Hotel Clarks Bundella are also very popular with visitors to Khajuraho.

Where to Eat:

Just opposite to the Western group of temples at Main Square, there is Raja’s Café, Tourist Village, Maharaja Terrace Restaurant, Café Blue Sky that provide delectable menus. Other restaurants that are preferred by visitors are Safari Restaurant, New Bharat and Punjabi Bhojanalay.

What to Buy:

Sarees, miniature stone carved erotic sculptures and local handicrafts. The Gole Market, Oswal Complex and City Centre along with the Government Emporia are great for shopping.