Madhya Pradesh

Gleaming Whites on Glimmering Waters – The Narmada

Rippling waters, gleaming cliffs, a cool breeze and imagination galore…that is what the boat ride on river Narmada is all about.

Continuing with my previous blog on the pictursque Bheda Ghat near Jabalpur, a trip here is incomplete without a boat ride on the river Narmada. This was a boat ride unlike any other I had ever taken before.

Boat rides have always been fun and more so, if the views from the boat ride are scenic. Some memorable boat rides I have taken were the river Hudson showing off the glamorous skyline of New York, the river Potomac in Washington displaying pretty Cherry blossoms in full bloom, and the Chicago river cruise to see iconic buildings and bridges. On Indian lakes and back waters, common sights are people washing clothes and bathing on the banks of the river, trees swaying in the wind, little villages on the banks and farms on the banks of the rivers. The Narmada ride showed me none of these! It instead showed me what I had never seen before…

We glided into the tranquil waters of the Narmada away from the noise of the dock and as the boatman rowed us away, we entered magical waters, tranquil and sublime. Gone were the farms and villages. No scenes of washing clothes and bathing assailed us. As we floated down the ethereal river, large cliffs and mountains loomed large…no ordinary cliffs, but cliffs of solid Marble. As we went deeper inside, the marble became whiter and the cliffs higher.

The Marble rock formations were the highlight of the day and as we floated down the waters, the rock formations assumed interesting shapes left to our imagination and interpretation. In some formations we saw the Nandi bull paying obeisance to Shiva on another rock. A tiger loomed large on another rock while a hermit in marble sat meditating on one more. As we went further along, the boatman and guide became more and more animated as he regaled us with tales of Bollywood romancing (on) the river. It was a mercy that the river had been spared largely by litterbugs and the river was mostly clean with strict instructions from the boatmen to not dirty their livelihood.

The 50 minute boat ride takes tourists to the Bandar kodini point where the rocks are so close that a monkey can jump from one cliff to another.

This boat ride can also be taken at night. I can only imagine how heavenly it must be to be on shimmering waters, with glistening marble cliffs, a starry sky, and a full moon…

Here are some pictures..

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The River Narmada

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Rock formations on the River Narmada

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Between narrow marble cliffs

The River Narmada

Gliding along the River Narmada

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Rock formations on the River Narmada

Categories: India, Madhya Pradesh | Tags: | 6 Comments

Wedding bells and River Warbles


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It was wedding season and a big gang of us were visiting the city of Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh for a fun wedding.  North Indian weddings are usually in the evenings leaving the day free, with the main wedding going on till wee hours in the morning. We reached a day before the wedding after a long train journey from Mumbai to Jabalpur. After a night of partying at the Sangeet a day prior to the wedding, we decided to visit the nearby Bheda Ghat and see the river Narmada.

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Categories: India, Madhya Pradesh | Tags: | 10 Comments

Eating out at Indore

I recently visited Indore, the commercial capital of the state of Madhya Pradesh. Indore is possibly the food capital too. Of all the highlights of the visit, eating blurs out all other memories!  Indians are overly fond of snacks and sweets and at Indore more so.

I had taken the Duronto Express train from Mumbai to Indore. The cheerful looking colorful train set the mood for a fun visit and I was not disappointed. I reached Indore at about 11 a.m and was welcomed by family with steaming chai,warm jalebis and ‘Alu Kachoris’ and Poha.  After this heavy meal, I was surprisingly hungry in about a couple of hours again and ready to eat!

I am told the ‘Indore ki hawa’ or atmosphere at Indore is naturally stimulating to eat more and food gets digested faster! Well, I don’t think I disagree as I almost always had room for more for each of the meals and the variety of food I had.

One of the highlights and must-do’s of Indore is a visit to Sarafa. Sarafa is an area in the old town on Indore near the Rajwada or palace of the Holkars. Originally a market of jewelers, Sarafa is now known as the foodie bazaar. Late in the evening at 9 p.m when businesses start closing down, jewelers down their shutters, Sarafa starts getting festive. Smells of gulab jamun, and hot frying oil start wafting and appetites are aroused.   Traditional ‘Chaat’ houses open and sweet sellers sit with their huge assortments of freshly made gulab jamuns, rabdi, kalakand and malpuas.  One can see people gorging on ‘Kachoris’, ‘Samosas’ and ‘Tikkis’. Along side the traditional chaat places, a slew of cuisines have set up shop in the form of Indo chinese stalls, Sandwiches and Pizza stalls.

For the uninitiated, NRIs or foreigners, it is hard to actually explain what ‘Chaat’ is. Well, Chaat is a variety of food that encompasses a range of savories that are usually sold at roadside stalls.  Most savories also have a motley of ingredients in them with a variety of spicy sauces.  Some popular ‘Chaat’ varieties in Indore are –

  • ‘Samosa’ chaat – Samosas are dough stuffed with a spicy potato filling in triangular shapes and fried. Accompanied by a chick pea gravy, onions, coriander and tomatoes, makes it a ‘chaat’!
  • Dahi vadas – Vadas are fried savories that can be made of many varieties of flours. Fried and then dunked into yoghurt sprinkled with chilli ‘chutney’ and tamarind chutney makes for delicious dahi vadas
  • Pani puri – Known by various names in different parts of the country, Pani puri is one of the most popular dishes found at the roadside stall. Thin hollow dough crispies are stuffed slightly with a potato or boiled chick pea filling and dunked in sweet and sour spicy water, one at a time. Each individual stuffed puri is eaten whole at a time.
  • Alu Tikkis – Potatoes are a favorite ingredient for all chats. Mashed potatoes roled into balls or chopped potatoes, are deepfried, sprinkled with spices and served hot.
  • Papdi chaat – Dough crispies, this time flat, are know as papdi or puri again. Loaded with potatoes, onions, puffed rice and some sauces and ‘sev’ make for a papdi chat.
  • Kachori -Kachoris are round dough balls stuffed with ‘masalas’ and some base ingredient of mashed peas or lentils or potatoes. Kachoris can be eaten dry or with the usual chat accompaniments of onions, tomatoes, coriander, ‘sev’ and chutneys.

Bustle at ‘Samosa’ chaat house

Frying Kachoris

Namkeen Sev

Well, chaat is ubiquitous in all of India, but Indore certainly had a fabulous ambiance that made us want bite into sweet and spicy savories.

Apart from the chat and the roadside stalls, Indore is also very famous for its ‘Namkeen’. Namkeen is a term given to long lasting savories made of flour and subtly flavored with cloves, garlic and several spices.

Even more tantalizing at Sarafa were the sweets that were sold openly. Mostly made in pure ‘desi’ ghee, even looking at them was a feast to the eyes.  You can get notably jalebis, imartis, gulab jamuns, malpuas, rabdi, kulfi, kalakand, and cold or hot drinks made of milk. A unique drink was known as ‘Shikanji’ which was a veritable mix of all the goodness in milky form there can be! Shikanji is made of evaporated milk, rabdi, shrikhand, and dry fruits making it very delicious.  With the advent of winter, a host of other goodies such as mattar or pea kachoris, ‘gajaks’ and hot milk products are also available and must-eats!

Delicious Gulab Jamuns in Sarafa Bazaar

Milky goodness – Rabdi and Kalakand

Moong Dal Halwa in Desi Ghee

My favorite! – Piping hot Malpuas dripping with ghee

Apart from Sarafa, another popular hang out  for youngsters in Indore is ‘Chappan Bazaar’ which originally consisted of chappan or fifty six shops.  Although the variety of food was similar to that of Sarafa, the feel of the place was new and less charming as compared to Sarafa.

One would think we would end up with upset stomachs at the end of all that feasting, but thankfully, we all returned well satiated. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I soon have a chance to go back again just for those steaming hot kachoris and melting-in-the-mouth malpuas.

If you were to visit Indore, some suggested places and food are –

At Sarafa –

  • Alu Patis at Vijay Chat
  • Dal Kachori near Vijay Chat
  • Rabdi at Bhairavnath
  • Jalebi and Malpua near the end of Sarafa near Bhairavnath

Some non Sarafa and Chappan Bazaar places are

  • Aspee on Racecourse road for ‘Mirchina’ a local drink not unlike a spiced up Coke but milder and Icecream Soda
  • Hira Lassi – near Shri Krishna Talkies
  • Ravi’s Aloo Kachori – Anand Bazaar
  • Damu Anna’s Kachori at Sikh Muhalla

My advice if you are planning a trip to Indore is to be that glutton you always wanted to be and have a feast!

Categories: India, Madhya Pradesh | Tags: , , , , | 32 Comments

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