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Published: February 19th 2008
The North Gate at Sanchi Stupa
Well at least we think it's the north gate it was 3 weeks ago (it might be east actually)
Next stop on the temple trail was Sanchi, home to the oldest and most impressive stupa in the world, as well as India's cheapest Thali. 30p for a full meal is just what we needed after the 4 pound pizzas of Mumbai and what with chai costing 4p our money was well spent. The village itself while nothing to write home about is situated directly beneath the ancient stupa built by the Indian despot Ashoka after he killed loads of people then felt a bit guilty and converted to Buddism. In case anyone doesn't know Stupa (noun)
- big semi-spherical mound made from bricks or stone and sacred to Buddists (despite the Buddha request that people not worship or build monuments to him). Imagine a small hillock or hobbit-hole.
This stupa, however, is also famous for the triple-linteled gateways pointing N,S,E & W. Some of these are in a better state than others but you get the impression that when they were built they'd have been one of the most impressive sights around and quite different to all the Hindu temples. The site around the main stupa is also home to around 20 other stupas some of which are
Shmunkie attaining enlightenment
This incredible well preserved Buddha statue was hidden in the monastry ruins at Sanchi. Nobody but us seemed to have been there in a long time.
really small (so small a French woman was sitting on one - perhaps the significance was lost on her). After some exploring, away from the tour groups we also found the ruins of some pretty amazing monasties, one with a perfectly preserved 6ft statue of Buddha.
Sanchi also provided some of the best wildlife spotting opportunities so far with troops of monkeys in the trees, most of whom were more than happy to have their photos taken.
After Sanchi, Jalgaon, Jhansi and some bum-numbingly long bus journeys (5hrs to do 100km I mean seriously, people run quicker than that. I don't but some people do) we ended up well and truely back on the tourist trail in Khajuaho. Site of the temples that have the Karma Sutra carved all over them and some things that were just too risque to make it into the final version. We could give full details, but there are children present and it really is quite rude - watching the Indians blush is priceless. Khajuaho because of this has unfortunately become a real tourist trap and the small main streets are heaving with people selling the same tat and
Carved Horse Relief - Khajuaho
One of the less risque reliefs at Khajuaho - well children might be watching.
demand that you visit their shop, a battle that at times can verge on the physical. What really amazed us, however, was the insistance of Tuk-Tuk drivers in trying to offer us a lift when the whole town can't be more than 200m across. This happens ever time you pass even if that be 10 or 15 times a day (aahhh!).
Getting away from it for a morning we escaped to Panna National Park, home of 35 wild tigers. Unfortuately these tigers are spread out over 500 square km and tourists are only allowed in 180 of them suffice to say the tigers remained elusive. We also failed to spot any of the leopards, hyenas, bears or other carnvivores that our guide assured us lived there. We did, however, get up close and personal with deer, spotted deer, antelope, monkeys, eagles and (from a bit more of a distance) crocodiles - so not a total loss.
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