Dome Diaries – Part II: Adil Shahi and curse of the Maratha

Dome Diaries Navigator – Prologue  ||  Part I  ||  Part II  ||  Part III  ||  Epilogue

Background:

The battle of Talikota in 1565 AD and the ensuing defeat of Vijayanagara empire ushered in a period of relative stability, which resulted in prosperity for all the Deccan sultanates. It was particularly so for the Adil Shahis of Bijapur as they shared the longest border with Vijayanagara. Post Talikota Adil Shahi diplomacy was a perfect balance between marriage alliances (with Nizam Shahis of Ahmednagar and Qutb Shahis of Golconda) and military campaigns (against Barid Shahis of Bidar). The idea of peace is a relative term, and in medieval India it could be gauged by comparing the length of the reigns of different rulers. Ibrahim Adil Shah II, the sixth Sultan of Bijapur and later his son Mohammed Adil Shah reigned over Bijapur of eight decades. The Bijapur sultanate remained in existence for two centuries in total. Now, that’s peaceful!

Part 2-2 FB

Image: A Canna Red King Humbert flower with Gagan Mahal in the background, in Bijapur, Karnataka, India

Absence of any threat from Vijayanagara and the diplomacy with other Deccan sultanates meant Bijapur could now exert its control over the majority of the newly conquered area, and most importantly over the very fertile Raichur doab. Steady revenue inflows from the Raichur doab and other conquered  dominions down south, and the immense wealth that was plundered after sacking of the capital of Vijayanagara, improved Bijapur’s finances by manifolds. This newfound abundance was used in uplifting the lifestyle of the subjects, creating architectural marvels, and patronizing art.

The Jagadguru Badshah:

After the demise of Ali Adil Shah I in 1579 AD, his adopted son Ibrahim Adil Shah II took over the reign as Sultan of Bijapur. The new Sultan was a class apart from his predecessors, and would stay so from his successors too. His reign would last for five decades, one fourths of Bijapur sultanate’s total existence. These five decades would unquestionably be the golden period of Bijapur sultanate. The sultanate would transform from religious tolerance as a state policy to religious inclusion, thanks to the Sultan’s efforts to bring cultural harmony between Shias and Sunnis, and Hindus and Muslims.

Ibrahim Adil Shah II would go on to become an acclaimed poet, in addition to being an able and just ruler. He is credited with composing Kitab-e-Navras, which is a collection of 59 poems and 17 couplets, dedicated to Goddess Saraswati, Lord Ganapati, his queen Chaand Sultana, and also his Tanpura “Moti Khan” and his elephant “Atis Khan”, among other things.

All of this earned him the title of “Jagadguru Badshah”. In addition, Ibrahim Adil Shah II gave Bijapur its most prized possession. No, it is not the Gol Gumbaz. He commissioned building of a very ornate mausoleum for his queen consort, Taj Sultana. And by doing so, in all probability he laid the foundation of the idea to dedicate grand mausoleums to consorts, which culminated in the grandest of them all, the Taj Mahal in Agra. Though the mausoleum he had commissioned was built for his queen consort, he was the one to die first and to be buried there. Hence, the mausoleum got its name, Ibrahim Rouza, also called the Black Taj, or the Taj of Deccan (contested, as Bibi ka Maqbara in Aurangabad is also known as the Taj of Deccan).

Part 2 FB

Image: The corridor outside the catacomb of Ibrahim Rouza, in Bijapur, Karnataka, India

With the demise of Ibrahim Adil Shah II in 1627 AD, Bijapur would near the end of its golden period.

Mohammaed Adil Shah and the curse of the Maratha:

Mohammed Adil Shah took over the throne of Bijapur after his father’s death in 1627 AD. He took over the reigns of Bijapur when the sultanate was at its zenith, and he tried his best to live up to his father’s reputation in his three decades of rule. His efforts were mainly focused on improving the socio-economic and educational standards of his subjects, and succeeded to a large extent.

However, his best known contributions to the history would be these two: 1) Gol Gumbaz, his mausoleum, which is the world’s second largest freestanding dome, and dominates the Bijapuri skyline to date; and 2) His dealing with the revolt of Shahji (Shivaji’s father) and later Shivaji, which turned the Marathas against Bijapur and shaped the present of India as we know today.

MM-4 FB

Image: One of the canons outside the museum near Gol Gumbaz, in Bijapur, Karnataka, India

The Marathas had fought alongside the Deccan sultanates in the battle of Talikota against the Vijayanagara empire. However, events leading up to Bijapur’s alliance with the Mughals during Shah Jahan’s campaign against the Nizam Shahis of Ahmednagar saw Shahji’s Maratha forces fighting for the sovereignty of the Nizam Shahis. During this campaign Shahji is credited with the decimation of the combined Mughal and Adil Shahi forces manifolds larger than that of his Marathas. Unfavorable turn of events would see Shahji accepting Adil Shahi supremacy and being deputed to manage the jagir of Bangalore, further south.

Shahji would then send his son Shivaji and wife Jijabai to manage his jagirs in Pune. Driven by the vengeance to correct the injustice done to his father by the Adil Shahis, Shivaji would start taking over Bijapur territories, capturing his first fort at a tender age of fifteen. Shivaji’s “misadventures” would “compel” Mohammed Adil Shah to let lose his trusted general Afzal Khan, to teach Shivaji a lesson. This decision, as the Adil Shahis would realize later, would cost them dearly.

Afzal Khan was a big man driven by a strong desire to prove his worth. Notwithstanding Afzal Khan’s bravery on battlefields and physical built, he was of questionable repute and on many occasions had used deception to his advantage. Till this point in time, Marathas were unaffected by the ongoing rivalry between Shivaji and Adil Shahis.

Part 2-3 FB

Image: A priest in Tulja Bhavani temple, in Tuljapur, Maharashtra, India

On a relentless pursuit, Afzal Khan would then kill Shivaji’s elder brother Sambhaji using deception, after having asked him to come for negotiations. Sometime later, to provoke and drive out Shivaji, Afzal Khan would attack on the Bhavani temple, in Tuljapur, and Vittala temple, in Pandharpur, desecrating the temples in the process. This was a stark departure from Adil Shahi state policy of religious tolerance and inclusion. These events would slowly turn the tides in favor of Shivaji, when other Maratha clans and sub-clans would rally behind him against the Bijapuri forces, grossly angered and humiliated by Afzal Khan’s actions.

Shivaji would kill Afzal Khan, when the latter would try to kill him using the same tactic he had used against Sambhaji, and in the ensuing battle of Pratapgadh, Bijapuri forces would be annihilated. Even after the defeat of Bijapuri forces in subsequent battles with the Marathas, Shah Jahan would still be respecting his treaty with Mohammed Adil Shah, and would allow the latter rule over a sovereign Bijapur. But this wouldn’t last long.

After Mohammed Adil Shah’s demise, his son Ali Adil Shah II would ascend the throne. Constant fighting with the Marathas had already weakened the Bijapur sultanate by then. And a few years later Shah Jahan would give in to the pressure from Aurangzeb and sanction a war against Bijapur to annex it into the Mughal empire. Ali Adil Shah II would die as the last independent Sultan of Bijapur, in 1672 AD. Mughal’s under Aurangzeb would finally annex Bijpaur in 1686 AD. This would give rise to the last of the three most bitterly fought rivalries of the Indian subcontinent of that millenium, that of Shivaji and Aurangzeb (the first being between Prithviraj Chauhan and Muhammed of Ghor, and the second between Rana Pratap and Akbar).

Conclusion:

There, two centuries of Adil Shahi history of Bijapur in two parts of “Dome Diaries”. It is fascinating how a certain event leads to a chain of events that change the course of time. For example, had Mohammed Adil Shah tried to negotiate with Shivaji instead of using a military commander like Afzal Khan, India’s past and present would have been entirely different.

Unfortunately, we have not been fully appraised of the past that has shaped our present. I have been reading about history of ancient and medieval India for some time now. It fascinates how (un)related events of India of the past that shaped up the India of today, are (conveniently) ignored by our history books. Few weeks ago, I had written a small piece on drawing parallels during medieval India, and called it “Drawing Parallels”. You can read it here.

END OF PART II

Dome Diaries Navigator – Prologue  ||  Part I  ||  Part II  ||  Part III  ||  Epilogue

In frame (in order of appearance): 1) A Canna Red King Humbert flower with Gagan Mahal in the background, in Bijapur, Karnataka, India. Gagan Mahal is one of the many palaces in Bijapur.

2) The corridor outside the catacomb in Ibrahim Rouza, Bijapur, Karnataka, India.

3) One of the many canons outside the museum near Gol Gumbaz, in Bijapur, Karnataka, India. The inscriptions on the face are names of the twelve Imams of the Shia Muslims. This canon is believed to have adorned one of the many bastions on the fort wall, during the reign of Ali Adil Shah I.

4) A priest of Tulja Bhavani, inside the Tulja Bhavani temple, in Tuljapur, Maharashtra, India.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

Dome Diaries – Part I: Rise of Adil Shahi, with envy from Delhi?

Dome Diaries Navigator – Prologue  ||  Part I  ||  Part II  ||  Part III  ||  Epilogue

Background:

Black clouds gathered on India’s north western borders adjoining Afghanistan in the middle of 12th century AD. The defeat of Prithviraj Chauhan at the hands of Muhammad of Ghor would create a vaccuum so powerful in the north, that it would suck hordes of invaders. These black clouds as if consolidated into a storm that would batter the Indian sub-continent for almost two centuries.

After having established foothold of Ghurid empire in India, Muhammad of Ghor would leave Delhi and India to his trusted slave and general – Qutbu l-Din Aibak, who would go on to establish the Delhi sultanate under the first dynasty, called the Mamluk or Slave dynasty. The Slave dynasty then would give way to the Khiljis, within a century of Prithviraj Chauhan’s death. The Khiljis would then give way to the Tughluqs in another thirty odd years. The Tughluqs would rule India for another century. Under Muhammad bin Tughluq (of Delhi to Daulatabad fame, also known as the “wise fool”), the Delhi sultanate would reach its maximum size, a size that could rival the Mauryan empire under Emperor Ashoka millenia earlier, or the Mughal empire under Aurangzeb centuries later.

One thing in common between the first three dynasties of Delhi sultanate was the fact that they ruled over this vast expanse of land not as their own, but as invaders. The mindset of invaders and plunderers coupled with insecurities of losing their reigns to their kin or the fear of an uprising by the masses, made most of the early Sultans of Delhi sultanate some of the cruelest rulers the world would ever see. These rulers were so cruel, that even a slightly lenient/tolerant ruler in their comparison will come across as a Messiah. Please refer to Ibn Batuta’s travelogues and other contemporary accounts for better understanding of their cruelty.

Having amassed an empire that could easily rival the largest empires of the world of that time, Muhammad bin Tughluq left it to his trusted generals and governors to take care of the different provinces of his sultanate, before retiring to Delhi. Foreseeing the fading influence of the Sultan, these generals started declaring independence one after the other. No, this wasn’t unusual! In fact, this was the standard practice of the time – Qutbu l-Din Aibak served Muhammad of Ghor, Firuz Khilji (founder of Khilji dynasty) served Qutbu l-Din Aibak’s Mamluk dynasty, Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq (founder of Tughlaq dynasty) served the Khiljis.

The Bahmani Sultanate and emergence of Adil Shahi:

Part 1 Header FB

Image: Bijapuri skyline from top of the Gol Gumbuz, in Bijapur, Karnataka, India

As per the norm prevalent at that time, appeared in the scene Ala-ud-Din Hasan Bahman Shah, also known as Hasan Gangu. Bahman Shah was the then governor of Deccan under Muhammad bin Tughluq, and declared independence to establish the Bahmani sultanate, with its capital at Gulbarga (now Kalaburgi) and later moved to Bidar, in Karnataka. Per some historians, Bahman is actually derived from the word Brahmin (the Hindu caste), questionably either because of Bahman Shah’s Brahmin ancestry, or the caste of his earlier master Gangadhar Shastri Wabale (from whom he also got his other name, Hasan Gangu).

Bahman Shah could not have chosen a worse time to lay the foundation of his Bahmani sultanate, as only a decade earlier, further south in the peninsular India had emerged another power – the Vijayanagara empire. For the major part of its existence, the Bahmani sultanate would find itself engaged in mutliple battles with Vijayanagara empire contesting for power and control over land, especially the Raichur doab, before being weakened and disintegrating into five sultanates of Deccan, together called as Deccan sultanates – The sultanates of Nizam Shahi of Ahmednagar, Imad Shahi of Berar, Barid Shahi of Bidar, Qutb Shahi of Golconda and Adil Shahi of Bijapur.

Yusuf Adil Shah, founder of the Adil Shahi dynasty of Bijapur served the Bahmani sultanate before declaring independence. For the next five decades, the five Deccan sultanates would be played against each other by Vijayanagara empire’s diplomacy, before coming together in a confederacy in the battle of Talikota in 1565 AD and defeating Vijayanagara. Vijayanagara empire would not recover from this defeat, paving way for consolidation of power in southern India. Hence, the battle of Talikota is seen as a pivotal point in history of India and southern India in particular. The confederacy of the Deccan sultanates was the brain child of Ali Adil Shah I, the fifth Sultan of Bijapur.

Off the topic, but worth mentioning here that the battle of Talikota also saw the Nizam Shahi of Ahmednagar pressing Malik-e-Maidan, the largest canon of its time into service.

MM-2 FB

Image: Malik-e-Maidan the second largest medieval canon in India, which now adorns a bastion on the western wall of the fort, in Bijapur, Karnataka, India

Consolidation:

After having tackled the dangers to the south, the Adil Shahis under Ali Adil Shah I and later Sultans, focused on consolidating their power, through a clever combination of marriage alliances (with Nizam Shahis of Ahmednagar and Qutb Shahis of Golconda) and military campaigns (against Barid Shahis of Bidar).

The plundered wealth from Vijayanagara gave the Adil Shahis the much needed capital infusion at the end of a very tumultuous period. The wealth was used to launch numerous ambitious projects under succeeding Sultans. The absence of any real threat for the next eight decades meant that the Adil Shahis focused more on culture, and art and creation of architectural marvels.

While the Adil Shahis were busy consolidating their powers to the south of Vindhyas, the Mughal empire under Akbar was making steady progress into peninsular India, having subdued Malwa and Khandesh in the process. Here, again a precious piece of history is lost as a footnote in the history books, because some historian mistook Akbar and Delhi for India.

I have been reading about history of ancient and medieval India for some time now. It fascinates how (un)related events of India of the past that shaped up the India of today, are (conveniently) ignored by our history books. Few weeks ago, I had written a small piece on drawing parallels during medieval India, and called it “Drawing Parallels”. You can read it here.

END OF PART I

Dome Diaries Navigator – Prologue  ||  Part I  ||  Part II  ||  Part III  ||  Epilogue

In frame (in order of appearance): 1) Cotton candies and Bijapuri skyline, from top of Gol Gombuz, Bijapur, Karnataka. Gol Gombuz is the second largest freestanding dome in the world. The outer as well as inner side of the dome is accessible through staircases inside the minars on all four sides of the structure.

2) Malik-e-Maidan, the second largest medieval canon in Indian subcontinent. Made of five metals, this canon weighs 55 tonnes and had a range of 3-5 kilometers. Noticed closely, you can notice the legs of a horse (signifying the canon’s range), an elephant body (signifying the canon’s weight), inside a lion’s mouth (signifying the canon’s roar when fired). Originally cast by the Nizam Shahis of Ahmednagar in 1549 AD, the Malik-e-Maidan now adorns a bastion on the western wall of the Bijapur fort.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

 

Dome Diaries – Prologue

Dome Diaries Navigator – Prologue  ||  Part I  ||  Part II  ||  Part III  ||  Epilogue

There, a brief but bright lightning far away and on my right side. One more, this time slightly closer and in the front. And as I press the accelerator, dry leaves fly on to my path and get illuminated in front of the headlamps. The winds are picking up and I can feel the crosswinds on my steering wheel. Most probably an end of summer thunderstorm. It has been dark for some time now and this stretch of road is narrow, as it passes through a reserve forest. Bad time and place to get caught in rains!

And my desk phone rang. It was the client. Damn! I was day-dreaming, again, lost in my thoughts as I stared at my desktop monitor. As if I had been teleported to one of the scenes from my recent solo road-trip.

A scene which looked like this!

Screen FB

This happens every time I come back from a trip. As if my heart stays outside the city limits, and refuses to come back in with me. And then, it keeps calling me to get out on my next trip!

This one was a long weekend road-trip. Long weekends are meant for travel, because I have recently realized that sleeping is too lazy. I realize things late, like thirty-odd-years late. Anyways, I thought of taking Pearl (that’s what I call my Scorpio; and yes, it is perfectly normal behavior!) out to stretch her legs a bit. And when you take a Scorpio out to stretch its legs, the most important thing it needs is leg room. My Pearl is no different! I decided 400kms one side was just enough leg room Pearl would need for stretching. So, Bijapur it was!

For starters, Bijapur (presently known as Vijayapura, in Karnataka, India) was the erstwhile capital of the Adil Shahis, one of the five Sultanates that the Bahamani kingdom broke into. It will not be an exaggeration if I call Bijapur as the “City of Domes”, because of the hundred odd small and big domes that dot the city’s skyline.

I have been reading about history of ancient and medieval India for some time now. It fascinates how (un)related events of India of the past that shaped up the India of today, are (conveniently) ignored by our history books. Few weeks ago, I had written a small piece on drawing parallels during medieval India, and called it “Drawing Parallels”. You can read it here.

The reason I chose Bijapur was because of the role it played in our history that shaped our present. After all, Adil Shahis of Bijapur stayed sovereign for two centuries. The same two centuries when Vijayanagara to the south, the Marathas to the west and the Mughals to the north were vying for control of the same piece of land.

Join me in a series of posts titled “Dome Diaries”, in the coming days. I will try to comprehend the later Adil Shahis of Bijapur, and their fascination for grand mausoleums, architectural marvels that are Gol Gombuz and Ibrahim Rouza, discover their religious inclinations (Adil Shahi rulers came from both sides of the Muslim community – the Shias and the Sunnis), and if possible, also their diplomacy and military might.

Dome Diaries Navigator – Prologue  ||  Part I  ||  Part II  ||  Part III  ||  Epilogue

In frame: A narrow stretch of empty road lit by my car’s headlamps and shot on mobile (No! I was not using the mobile while driving). This stretch of road was between Kalaburgi (Gulbarga as it is presently known), Karnataka and Hyderabad, Telengana, in India.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

A wait too long!

It was a mad rush inside the temple. And owing to my short height, it was impossible for me to have a glance at the deities, let alone having a good look. So, I tugged at my father’s shirt and asked him to pick me up and hold me in his arms so that I could take a good look. I was curious to understand what was all the fuss about these three half-finished deities sitting on that raised platform. And he picked me up! I saw He had a pleasant smile on His face, His big round eyes seeing everything, and His arms extended to embrace everyone.

I was 9 when I last had the opportunity to go see Lord Jagannath and His siblings in His abode in Puri. Year 1991 was the year of Godavari Pushkaram, the most recent one being in 2015. Hindus consider it auspicious to take a dip in the waters of Godavari during that time. And it is considered to be even more auspicious if you visit Jagannath Puri after the holy dip in Godavari. So, we did! Needless to say, it was a road-trip – from my hometown in southern Odisha, to Rajahmundry on the banks of Godavari, in Andhra Pradesh, to Jagannath Puri in Odisha and back to my hometown.

We were staying in one of my uncle’s house in one of the narrow by lanes of Puri. Those were the days when there were no mobiles and no internet, and in the name of TV channels we had only Doordarshan. Unlike kids of today, we had no option but to have fun. So, my parents did not have to pester me and my brother to get ready to go out with them to explore Puri. I have only faint memories of Puri. What I strongly remember from that evening however, is the feeling of not feeling one’s legs from all the walking. The year was 1991!

Jagannath Temple, Puri
Street outside the Jagannath temple in Puri, Odisha, India. It is called Bada Danda in Odia, literally translating into Grand Road.

Then I “grew up”, and started having a “life”. I travelled the length of coastal Odisha many times, but never got a chance to revisit Puri. Then, like any other good Hindu, I blamed it on Him – “Jagannath hasn’t called me to visit him yet”. And in the meantime, 26 years went by.

Lord Jagannath and his siblings are as human as Gods can get. As human as visiting their aunt every year (Rathyatra) to getting ill after spending too much time in the water (Snana Yatra) to fighting with the spouse (Hera Panchami) to leaving the old body and consecrating into a new one (Nabakalebara).

While the previous deity of Lord Jagannath (which existed before the Nabakalebara of 2015) was considered to be very tolerant towards human behaviour, the current deity of Lord Jagannath is considered to be action-minded and an angrier one at that. It was only wise to stop blaming Him for not visiting and pay him a visit in his abode, I thought.

So, I visited Him after 26 years. And guess what! He looked all the same to me, like He did when I was 9 years of age. The same pleasant smile on His face, His big round eyes seeing everything, and His arms extended to embrace His whole creation. He is cool, I realised! May be a little but upset with me because I took 26 years to come back, but He was cool!

This being the month of May, it was very humid inside the temple. And because of the repair work going on in the Jagamohan (the assembly hall in front of the sanctum sanctorum), devotees are not allowed to have a closer look. Yes, His abode needs repairs too! That’s why I said He is as human as a God can get.

My visit to Puri lasted for only 90 minutes. Getting a glimpse of Him was my only purpose in Puri this time, and I was glad that I succeeded. And I realised that He calls us all the time, it is us who fail to comply and blame Him instead.

I plan to visit Puri again during Rathyatra this year, to relive my childhood memories, and after doing so bring you back the stories of Lord Jagannath and Puri.

Jai Jagannath!

In frame: Street outside the Jagannath temple in Puri, Odisha, India. It is called Bada Danda in Odia, literally translating into Grand Road. Kindly bear with lower quality of this photo. It was taken using my mobile and not my DSLR, as I am carrying only my 35mm film SLR this time as part of a challenge to myself.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

Why travel?

//राही बन//

आराम और सुविधाओं से भरी बेरंग ज़िन्दगी जिएगा कब तक?
निकल बाहर और राही बन, रास्ते को बना अपना घर,
भाग उस मंज़िल की तरफ, जिसका पता ना मुझे है, ना तुझे
जा.. जी अपनी जिंदगी, क्यूँ की उम्र बाकी है बहुत कम..
ऐसी बेरंग ज़िन्दगी जिएगा कब तक?

One for the road
An empty stretch of road between Ujjain and Mandav, in Madhya Pradesh, India after almost 25-30 kms of non-existent roads.

I will admit! For me, travel had always something very tempting about it. My father, who is an avid traveller himself, sowed the seeds of love for travel. And when I was a kid, my mother (who is a History major) would tell me bed time stories about Xuanzang, Faxian, Ibn Battuta and Captain James Cook, and I would lie on the bed imagining myself as an explorer/traveller. Though I have not come too far from those bed-time-stories days, I think it has been good start, although late.

I have been able to cover only a small fraction of this magnificent land. For a starter, I have been breathless on Khardung La in the Himalayas, and have been dwarfed by the majestic mountains in Kedarnath, and have almost frozen in the waters of Gangotri, and have been mesmerised by the Ganga Aarti in Rishikesh. I have criss-crossed central India hopping from heritage sites to religious places, and have been wowed by Kailash temple in Ellora and paintings of Padmapani and Vajrapani in Ajanta, and have been transcended into another dimension while watching Bhashmaarti in Ujjain. I have been lazy in a Goan monsoon, and also have been awed by the magnificence of Hampi. I have crawled up and down in the coffee estates in the Western Ghats, and have also seen the calmness of the sea in Rameshwaram, and have been on the Vivekananda rock to see the three seas meet.

Wait! That’s not all. I have driven my beat Maruti 800 to places. I have ridden my Pulsar 200NS for thousands of kilometres. I have taken my Scorpio on multiple multi-thousand kilometre road trips, and have been on the roads for days together.

Ahaa… Wait! That’s not all, either. I have been stuck on the highway with a cyclone approaching. And as I spent my night in the car and the eye of the cylcone came really close, the howling gale almost blew the car away. And at least on two occasions I have been stranded on the road, surrounded by flood waters, and water levels slowly rising all around me. In such situations the natural choice boils down to either survival (an animal instinct) or humanity (that differentiates us from animals). In the small village I was stuck in on one occasion during the floods, there were at least two hundred more people stranded. And all of us were fed well by the villagers, without being charged a single penny. Without any idea how long the floods will last, wasn’t it brave of those villagers?

Had I been confined, I will not be having these wonderful experiences to share, correct? The travel experiences have shaped me into the kind of human I am at present.

Why I travel, explained in 3 P’s:

Places: Only words and pictures will not do justice to the places I have been to and the stories behind them. The befitting tribute to those places can only be paid by visiting and experiencing them first hand. How on earth can someone tell how it feels to be starved of oxygen at five and a half kilometres above mean sea level? Or, how it feels when water at sub-zero temperatures hits the calvaria? Or, how it feels being stranded in the eye of a cyclone and the gales are about to blow away your car?

People: The great explorers of the past were not dumb to have travelled the world and learn nothing. Humans learn best from experiences of other human beings. And what better way to meet new people other than travel? I have never seen more honest people than the Laddakhis. Being fed by villagers during the floods and for free was the best gesture any human to have ever showed me. I have had instances of total strangers coming and talking to me when I was on a ride to Odisha on my Pulsar 200NS and in the course of the conversation, telling me about places of interest nearby, or about the road that lay ahead. And, people are not always pleasant. I have also been conned many times during my travels. I call them “learning experiences”.

Passion: I am the happiest when I am on the roads, away from my desk, away from my flat. Only someone with love for travelling will understand this. Good news is, there is no way you will not fall in love with it after you start travelling. I mean, I wasn’t born with this love either. And those selfies at beautiful places are a bonus!

Few points of wisdom:

Something always goes wrong when one travels. It is the risks that make travelling even more enticing. Here are a few things that I keep in mind when I am travelling:

Time: When travelling, I always keep time in hand, and utilize it to the fullest extent. I divide my travelling days and set realistic targets for the same. Seeing places is a serious business, you see!

Lights (while self-driving): I have done a fair bit of driving/riding under the lights and have come to a conclusion that it is not worth it. It is a proven fact that human reflexes while driving are much less effective under artificial light. Then there is always the risk of unsocial elements, ghosts and unsocial-elements-dressed-as-ghosts at night. I hate ghosts and hence I try my best to avoid night driving. Pun intended!

Money: Not all places have ATMs. And post demonetisation, not all the ATMs dispense cash. I carry just enough to survive and overcome an eventuality and much less than an amount that will tempt someone to kill me. As a rule of thumb, I would start my day with Rs 5000, and replenish it back to that level at start of each day.

Maps and research: I carry a road atlas as a back up to the map on my phone. Most of the times, I do my route and stoppage planning beforehand. The most fun part of travel preparation is setting up an itinerary. I call it research!

When in doubt, I lie: If it is a self-driven road-trip, when asking for directions I always ask directions to the next big town on my route, and not to my destination. When the stranger I am speaking to does not seem right, or is too inquisitive, or both, I just cook up a story. Believe me, it is not a sin to lie when it comes down to safety. And I have a thing against serial killers!

Have fun: When something goes wrong, and something always goes wrong, I don’t get bogged down by the incident and look at the brighter side, instead. Remember, if you have no control on the outcome of a crisis, have a good time while having the crisis.

I also admit that I am yet to see the world, and have experienced just a fraction of what so many other people might have. Although late, I am glad to have started travelling. And travel I will!

Finally, let me repeat the wise words from John A. Shedd for you – “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”

So, what are you waiting for? Pack your bags, and get out of the house. Go Now!

Credits: Poem at the top penned by your’s truly!

Note: Please get in touch if you have difficulty in reading Hindi, and would prefer an English translation of the poem instead.

In frame: A stretch of good road between Ujjain and Mandav. We stopped here to straighten our backs after 25-30kms on non-existent roads. Yes, that happens in a Scorpio too!

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.