The next morning when we decided to move out of Orchha, our destination was Khajuraho. But I wanted to purchase Chanderi Saree for myself directly from the craftsmen. Not from a showroom in Bhopal or Indore, as suggested by my husband. Thus in no time destination was changed to Chanderi. (benefits of being the navigator who knows driving as well, so husband has no choice but to follow).
Ritesh said the moment we hit the road, book a room otherwise I am not going. (Always look for * on top of any offer, it says condition apply. Here he was applying conditions so he didn’t have to take me there). So I started with MP tourism hotels. The first I came across was Kila Kothi. And had availability with good reviews. So without much searching, I booked a room by direct calling.
The road towards Chanderi from Orchha is a single road but in decent condition and not much traffic. After driving for almost 1.5 hr we reached a bridge and right in front, was a dam. This is the Rajghat Water reservoir. Google showed me that, the bridge I was standing on, was divided exactly from the center in two states, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. (I am always surprised by nature. In today’s world when we are fighting for every inch of land or water, there it was, nature standing strong against everyone. The river Betwa flows in both states. The dam is divided into both states. But still, water is undivided). Again a detour was a must. We reached on top of the dam and enjoyed the view and boat ride there.
Pranpur – The Actual Place of Chanderi Craftsmen
When we were headed towards Chanderi from Rajghat, just the outskirts of actual Chanderi city, I saw a few ladies working on spinning wheels. It instantly grabbed my attention and I told Ritesh to stop the car. He was doubtful but parked the car on side of the road, right in front of the house. I got down and reached to the old man sitting outside the house and asked him about those ladies. To my surprise, he told me that it was the place where Chanderi saree or suits are being made. A place called Pranpur. Just 5 km from main Chanderi city.
We both walked towards the village. I directly approached those ladies and asked for some water to drink. They almost rushed to get it and that’s how our conversation started. They gave us a brief tour of all the procedures they follow. And yes I got my saree too. They happily showed everything they had. The Harsh truth I witnessed again was, that for a saree they make, they get Rs100 /mtr to Rs 250/mtr. When I calculated for the saree they get only Rs 500 to Rs2250. And the saree for which they get Rs 500 is sold at some Rs 3000 to Rs 4000.
I had to believe them, as the moment I stepped out of their house and entered a Shop in the village, it was the exact same price they told me. Just a matter of hardly 500mtrs. I did pay those ladies a little extra from what they asked, as it was still way cheaper than the shop. Also, it didn’t make much difference to my pocket but brought a big smile to their faces.
Living in Kothi in Quila
After our little adventure, we finally headed to Chanderi. When we started towards Kila Kothi, we were climbing the hill. The view was just wonderful. Surrounded by beautiful green mountains and ancient watchtowers on almost every ridge we can see. We reached our destination. And to my disappointment, I see the radio broadcasting station in front. (Remember Jhansi) But still, I moved ahead to check in as we had to stay in Chanderi. And the moment I stepped inside the complex we were surprised. It was not a hotel. Chanderi has a fort, with full-fledged history. MP tourism has developed one corner of the fort into a hotel. So basically we are staying inside the Chanderi Fort. Beautiful spacious room with a wonderful view of the entire city and a royal stay, inside the fort, at affordable prices. That’s how Chanderi introduced itself to us.
If you look around from the fort you will realize that this place has so much to offer. History goes back to the 11th century. This place is described in Epic Mahabharat. Ruled by Shishupal, Lord Krishna’s cousin. This place was the gateway to the central trade route of India. Ruled by Pratihars, Rajputs, Malwa Sultan, Mughals, Bundela kings, and Britishers, who finally gave it to Scindias of Gwalior. This place was an outpost for rulers in Mandu. Chanderi gave shelters to armies traveling south. All rulers have left their impressions on the city. This place had almost 1200 well once upon a time.
Where we were just wanting to visit the city for shopping, it forced us to explore with the welcome at the fort. We dropped our luggage in the room and got freshened up, went straight to the fort. Following its history was thrilling and disheartening at the same time. The major attractions inside the fort are Johar Smarak and Khuni Darwaja. (Don’t be scared of the name. Just visit to know how much bloodshed had happened to get us the freedom we enjoy today) Following the fort wall, we went straight to the edge of the fort, just to enjoy a beautiful sunset.
Must-visit places are Kati Ghati, where the mountain is cut to make a route (this is an entry route to the city but without any gate, as workers didn’t build any hinges), Jama Masjid, the only of its kind in India (a masjid without any Minar), Badal Mahal gate (gate build to welcome any royal visitors), Raja Rani Mahal, Koshak Mahal, Shajadi ka Roja, Laxman temple. This place is a pilgrimage for Jains. Chanderi has a full-fledged museum for history lovers. Few inscriptions about Chanderi are present in Gwalior Museum.
I could go on to write about this place. But as Ritesh always says, let few things be unsaid, so people can have their own experiences. After Datia this place again broke me, in terms of our attitude toward our heritage. But as compared to Datia I guess this place has survived better. And fought better to make its presence counted. Or I should say that ASI is doing a great job.