Madhya Pradesh: Architectural Wonders & Tiger Territory
Our in-depth journey through Madhya Pradesh will take you from architectural wonders to the most secluded heartlands, and into towns bursting with life and energy. There is a forest of bamboo and ravines that inspired Richard Kipling’s famous story, The Jungle Book. There is a weaving city whose fine silks were favoured by royalty, and there is a city that has fought war from its riverbanks. From December to March, the temperature drops—perfect to embark on your adventures through one of India’s most enchanting regions.
The Khajuraho temples are a group of Hindu and Jain sculptural wonders. To see these meticulously detailed carvings is to witness some of the best-preserved temples in the country, that have stood the test of time since the 10th and 11th centuries. Depicting largely erotic scenes from the Kamasutra, they are insight into the tantric practices of the Hindu faith.
Panna Tiger Reserve
We venture onward into tiger territory—spending days on game drives to spot the elusive Bengal tiger, and boating along the river Ken—absolutely serene. The Panna Tiger Reserve stands out amongst the others for having successfully incorporated a tiger reintroduction program assisted by the owner of the Sarai at Toria himself.
And when we’re not exploring the neighbouring grasslands, we might spend an afternoon creating delicious dishes from its produce. After harvesting ingredients from their organic garden, they take us on a culinary experience of both Malwa and cosmopolitan cuisine.
A unique way to explore the region is to stay in its back lands. With its mobile tent system, Kaafila Camps brings us closer to experiencing the marvels of Kalinjar that would otherwise fly under the radar. What’s more—they leave nothing behind.
We see the craft of the original Chanderi silk, meet with members of the Baiga tribe, a forest-dwelling community, and uncover the story behind Kalinjar Fort. Built into a cliffside, the fort is a marvel of temples, inscriptions and caves, all within its towering walls. Then to cap off the day, we exchange stories around a bonfire under the star-studded sky.
We head back to the bustling city of Varanasi, exploring its deeply-rooted Hindu culture. The speed, sights and smells of the city captivate immediately. Varanasi is a whirlwind of colours and energy behind which is a driving force—the two tributaries of the Ganges river. Throughout the day, see locals use different parts of the river to launder, bathe and cremate, the last of which the city is known for.
To end of day of perusing its market-filled by-lanes, we head down to the banks to take part in an Aarti Ceremony. Against the darkness of the night sky the fires burn brighter, and accompanied by the powerful chanting, the act is both spectacular and meditative. It is almost symbolic of the city’s spirit—frenetic yet peaceful in practice of ancient rituals.
A city steeped in history, Kolkata was the centre of intellectual and cultural exchange in India. It went from being a former British capital to the centre of the struggle for independence. Important philosophers, poets, musicians and film-makers have their roots here, turning the city into a vibrant hub. The alleys are alive with stories of the past. Walking its streets feels like you have been transported back in time. To feel it, you truly have to experience it.
In the “City of Joy”, one of our favourite places of rest is the Glenburn Penthouse. Sitting in the middle of Kolkata, this becomes your haven. As the end of the year draws near, the weather cools to lovely conditions to explore the town with Navreet Arora, a Kolkata local, with a fervent passion for her city.
Navpreet will take you to hidden gems scattered throughout the town. In one afternoon, see the Jewish and Chinese neighbourhoods, passing Portuguese and Armenian churches along the way—truly a city unlike any other. A scintillating way to get insight into these cultures is through street food—savour delicious snacks like egg rolls, Tibetan momos and jhal Muri (pictured above), a cone full of puffed rice, potatoes, onions, coconut slices, spices and several other tasty ingredients.