Pravin Gandhi’s People, Places and Perceptions: Mandu
Travelling for me is not about doing the spots on a travel brochure; its not only been-there-done-that. It is about often taking the path less trodden, going to offbeat places, discovering new places; entangling with the people; and forming deep, everlasting impressions and perceptions.
Mandu in Madhya Pradesh state of India is a place of ruins of palaces dedicated to love. It was here that the Emperor Jehangir – interrupted from enjoying an afternoon of song and dance and wine – gave audience to an Englishman and (hastily) granted permission to set up a trading business in India, which gave birth to the East India Company and set the stage for British Raj over India for 200 years.
I stood at the same spot, on the ornate balcony, as a (probably) irritated Jehangir did 600 years ago, and felt the awe of a game-changing event envelope me!
Sadguru ghar aayo: (Great Sage/Guru has come to my house)
Just outside the ruins of the palace of Raja Bagh Bahadur, lover of Rani Rupmati, sat a poor old man under a giant peepul tree. Dressed in a traditional rural attire with a turban, his tattered clothes bearing the marks of the soil on which he sits and sleeps, he had a tanpura in one hand and a pakhwaj in another and was singing a sweet lore, singing to the empty ruins, with not a soul around:
|“Rang Mahal mey rahtaa Gunesha sunmukh darshan detaGunesh raja, gunesh daata.Kar meri maila re aashaTera beda paar kar detaGunesh raja, gunesh daata.||“In the splendour of Rang Mahal PalaceHe gives face-toface darshanLord Ganesh, Ganesh the GiverHe grants every hopeHe can take you across the riverLord Ganesh, Ganesh the Giver”|
I sat down beside him, absorbing the mahaul (ambience): the ancient palace, now in ruins, the peepul tree, the old man as old as the tree, and his ballad. I took the bard’s pakhwaj and gave him accompaniment. Take a moment to visualise the scene and feel the ambience of this place and moment.
I tipped him quite generously. Our guide asked him, in native dialect, to sing something special for me. Instantly, he sang,
“Sadguru ghar aayo Pahuna ban kar” (Sadguru came to me in the guise of a guest).
I felt that the allusion was to me. I was deeply moved.
Godhuli: (Go = cow; dhuli = dust)
On the outskirts of Mandu, the wheel nuts of our rickety Amby taxi came off and we were forced to stop. Where we had stopped were a couple of huts and cattle sheds. It was approaching sunset. The woman of the nearest hut who had given us a charpoy (cot) to sit while we waited, alerted us and asked us to be seated. Suddenly the cows came running, against the backdrop of a sinking sun, mooing, kicking up the dust, their bells ringing, eager to see and feed their calves. I realised what Godhuli is. Godhuli is This Moment, This Scene, This Ambience. Again, take a moment to take in this scene and feel the ambience! You can’t put all that in any painting. Providence had given me the privilege of witnessing the moment that is Godhuli. In Indian culture, Godhuli is a very auspicious time (muhurat) of day, and I can understand why. I felt blessed!
Curious tiny tots gathered around us, one of them gave us a little baby lamb to play with. We stayed a while even after the wheel was fixed, savouring this Moment, Scene and Mood that is Godhuli.
PS: Please visit http://www.pravingandhi.com/one-at-a-time to get my book “One at a Time – short stories to muse by”