Thursday, 21 June 2007

[] Travel to Ahmednagar! अहमदनगरला भेट द्या! - अहमदनगरकी यात्रा कीजिये!
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Ahmednagar (अहमदनगर) is an historical city in Maharashtra state of India. Ahmednagar has more than 500 years history traced as early as in 1490 AD. You can find traces of Nizamshahi, Mughals (Akbar, Shah Jahan, Aurangzeb...) and Peshwas until the British took over Ahmednagar. You will find Persian influence in architectures of Ahmednagar in Nizamshahi period. Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru and Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar have written books in Ahmednagar. The city is 75 miles from Pune/Aurangabad, 165 miles from Mumbai(Bombay), India. The entire Ahmednagar city can be covered in 2 days.

The places to visit in Ahmednagar city are - Ahmednagar fort, City museum (near collector office), bustling markets, Chand bibi tomb, Anand Dham (Acharya Anand Rishi Memorial), Renuka Goddess Temple (Kedgaon), Hume Church (Khist lane), Tank Museum (near Farah Bagh, 9 to 5, free), Saiban (Vilad Ghat region), Ravindranath Tagore Amphitheatre (next to Saiban), Reverend Tilak Memorial (Poet Narayan Waman Tilak, 1861-1919), Hutatma Smarak (Fourth Shivaji Maharaj Memorial), Changez Khan Mahal(now Civil Court near DCV), Gulam Ali (elephant's name) Memorial (next to Bagh-i-Rauza) etc.

The archaeological sites** to visit in city are -
* Damdi Masjid - The Damdi Masjid(Mosque) is built in 1568. The masjid has fascinating deccani style architecture of carved stonework.
* Niyamat Khan’s Palace
* Kotla of 12 Imams/Bara Imam Kotla: Kotla Masjid(Mosque) was built by Burhan Nizam Shah in 1537.
* Makka Mosque/Macca Masjid: Rumi Khan constructed two-floor Makka Mosque in the reign of Burhan Nizam Shah I.
* Old tomb near Changiz Khan’s Palace
* Sarje Khan’s Tomb
* Nizam Ahmed Shah’s Tomb (Bagh-i-rauza/Bagh Rauza) - Bagh-i-rauza is a middle eastern style architecture. It is near Delhi Gate. Nizam Ahmed Shah was the founder of Ahmednagar.
* Rumi Khan's Tomb (Pila Ghumat or yellow dome) - It is about 100 yards north of the Kothla.
* Alamgir Dargah - Aurangzeb died in Ahmedngar in 1707. His body rested briefly at Alamgir Dargah, near cantonment (Bhingar). He was later buried at Khultabad, 5 miles north of Daulatabad.
* Chand bibi's palace - Why the tomb of Salabat Khan II is called as Chand bibi's palace is still a challenge for historians/archaeologists. The gothic arches and ceilings of palace are very highly finished. Chand bibi (Chand Sultana), a daughter of Hussain Nizam Shah I and sister of Burhan, is a subject of many fabulous legends in Ahmednagar. Chand bibi was brave like Joan of Arc in battles. She defended Ahmednagar against the mighty armies of Akbar (Mughals). She was killed in 1600 by few of her own short-sighted people branding her as traitor (rumour?). You can see her portrait painted by Persian artist in Bijapur (in Karnataka) museum. She was married to Adil Shah I of Bijapur.

There are four visible festivals in Ahmednagar city you can witness as traveler - Ganesh Festival (Hindu, in August/September), Tabut festival (Muharrum, Islamic, month varies), Navratri/Dasara (Hindu, in October),and Makar Sankrati (Kite-flying, in January). In Ganesh festival, several Ganesh groups(mandal) work on decoration(dekhava/aaras) on various themes - primarily mythological and cultural, to attract viewers to celebrate the community spirit of festival. The last 3 days (out of 10 days) of Ganesh festival are interesting - The 8th and 9th days are good to watch decoration(dekhava/aaras). There is a fixed route for immersion(visarjan) parade of last (10th) day. The immersion parade is a fun experience to take pictures or shoot video, immersing in local culture and people and cherish your memories. Muharram is the first month of Islamic calendar. In Tabut festival of Muharram, devotees beat themselves and inflict wounds on body, in mourning of Hazrat Imam Hussain and his people- who fell at Karbala, carrying the decorated tabut/tazia (bamboo and paper replicas of mausoleum of the martyrs) chanting "Ya Hussain" repeatedly. Navaratri/Dasara festival is also celebrated by visiting Durga/Renuka goddess temples in Kedgaon/Burhannagar. Makar Sankranti is just fun for kids to fly small kites up in the sky. Kite-flying also becomes a nerve-wracking sport of cutting others' kites in sky. Check the local calendars for exact dates of festivals since they change every year.

The mode of transport to reach Ahmednagar is primarily bus (Maharashtra State Highways- 10, 60, 141) or railway. The city can be covered within 10 sq. miles. The center of the city can be covered in 3 miles. Once you reach city, rent bicycle to see the city. Renting moped/motorcycle could be bit difficult. There are auto rickshaws here instead of taxies/cabs. Biking(bicycling) is the best option to navigate city. You can visit morning markets at Maliwada, Chitale Road, Gunj Bazaar. Also, if you want to buy clothes, visit Kapad(clothing) Bazaar.

Within 60-70 miles span, the places you can visit in Ahmedngar district are Bhandardara(hill station, Mount Kalsubai, Wilson Dam, Randha Waterfall), Shirdi (Sai baba), Arangaon/Meherabad(Meherbaba tomb, Amartithi week celebration - Jan. 31), Ralegan Shindi (aka Ralegan Siddhi - model village for environmental conservation), Harishchandragad (for trekking), Siddhatek (Karjat, Ganesh temple, Ashtavinayak), Shani Shingnapur (no door/lock village, famous Shani Temple), Hast-Behast (8 Paradises) Bagh aka Faijbaksha mahal, Elephant Well - Hatti Barav (Jamkhed Road), Meherazad (towards Shendi/Savedi Region), Burhan nagar (Ambika/Tulja Goddess Temple, Fair on 3rd day of Navratri), Kapurwadi lake, Mirawali Mountain, Dongargan, Panjarpol (cattle/cow conservation), Rameshwar (Pleasant Waterfall, Hemadpanti Temple, near Jamkhed ), Chondi (Jamkhed Taluka, birthplace of Ahilyabai Holkar, Shiv Temple), Ideal Villages (Ralegan Siddhi [Anna Hazare], Hiware Bazaar [Popat Pawar]), Akole (Agasti Ashram), Newasa (Saint Dnyaneshwar Temple, Mohiniraj Temple), Madhi (Kanifnath memorial), Pathardi (Mohotadevi Temple, Vrudheshwar), Vambori (Hemadpanti Temple), Karjat (Rehakuri/Rehekuri Wildlife Sanctuary), Maldhok{bustard} Bird/Wildlife Sanctuary (both in Ahmednagar and Solapur district regions, bird watching).

If you want to know more about history of Ahmednagar, do visit the museum in Ahmednagar city and ask for a book written by historian - Mr. Suresh Joshi. The book is written in Marathi language. The book may be translated in English. Ahmednagar museum has a good collection of historical documents, manuscripts, coins, historical paintings, ancient statues etc. You can read/preview books about Ahmednagar online here.

Be patient and be prepared for driving/biking with no traffic signals, no road names, asking people for directions etc. It will be messy and crowded traveling experience. There are Internet Cafes in Ahmednagar that would cost you around a dollar for 2-hour slow (at most 256 kbps) access. Be prepared to bargain in shops. I would recommend you to buy grilled groundnuts with shells, sugarcane juice, hot ginger tea (chai/chaha) from street hawkers.

If you know any farmers in nearby city, you probably can attend Hurda Party. Hurda basically is a grilled/roasted grain (green tender jwar/jwari, not corncob) freshly taken from farm. You add salt and lime to it. I haven't seen camping/renting farmhouse in rural Ahmednagar. You can attend tamasha in rural Ahmednagar if it is scheduled in village/town. Tamasha is a dying folk art in rural Maharashtra. Just like any play in theater, tamasha is performed live by artists with the mixture of crude humor (political/religious), songs (lavani), play(vag-natya), and dance in open space. You need to have understanding of Marathi language and local culture to understand tamasha. If you take a friend (in rural Ahmednagar) with you, he/she will help you out to learn more about it.

I am not sure college/school hostels are available for rent in summer holidays. Try to live in a house of friend rather than hotel. That will give you direct interaction with the community. Friend/s will also help you to communicate with citizens since most people speak Marathi language. Friends/Citizens can also learn about your culture. It is a cool laid-back disorganized experience of understanding the culture of towns in Maharashtra.

In case you are into volunteer travel, some of social and developmental challenges of Ahmednagar are mentioned here. You could visit villages in Ahmednagar to work on projects like - Solar Energy, Sustainable Farming, Teaching, Children, Poverty, creating global awareness, Speak English etc.

Presently, there is no detailed travel/guide book (specific to Ahmednagar) available on web/market. Don't buy any quick-buck making commercial printed book related to Ahmednagar travel, stick to Internet. Ahmednagar has dry climate/weather, almost all year. The major part of summer (April - June) is hot (40s °C or 110s °F). The intermittent short (may be an hour at most) spell of rainfall in rainy season (monsoon) is from June till September. The best time to visit Ahmednagar is between November and March. Marathi alphabet is similar to Hindi. So, reading road names/signs should be easier if you can read Hindi. Feel free to speak in basic English. You will get answers in one word like yes, no or some body language. Wear cotton or light woolen clothes in modest manner that covers all your body, no jacket is needed. The power/electricity in India is 230v, 50Hz. Make sure that you have adopters for your electronics (e.g. laptop). Read signs at religious places carefully. If you are a woman, don't travel alone; travel with friends. Watch fellow citizens for following traffic rules or crossing roads. Don't drive if you are from North America or drive at right hand side. You can get basic first aid kit in pharmacy (medical store). Get mosquito repellent cream/net/coil. Drink/Keep plenty of purified mineral water. Follow and teach guidelines of ecology while traveling. Travel with the burning desire to learn and bringing cultures together, rather than just observe.

**Ahmednagar city development plan document
(Note:Rauza is a Persian term for mausoleum. Here is the list of same words spelled differently that have same meaning in this article. Ahmednagar = Ahmadnagar; Bagh = Baugh, Bag; Farah Bagh = Faria Bagh, Feria Bagh; Mughals = Mugals, Moghals, Mogals; Damdi=Damri; Rauza = Roza, Roja; Makka=Makkah, Mecca, Macca; masjid = musjid; deccan = dakkhan;Nizam Ahmed Shah = Nizam Ahmad Shah,Malik Ahmad Shah Bahri,Malik Ahmad Shah, Nizam Ahmed Shah Bahri. Local tourists may explore- Do boti Chira(two-finger print like handprint), St Hume Memorial Church, St John Catholic Church, St. Anna/Anne/Ann Church, Mirikar Wada, Patwardhan wada, Kukade Wada, Kavi Jang Mahal, Parsi agiary(fire temple) in Ahmednagar city. If you want to read about old Ahmednagar, refer to latest edition of Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency - Ahmednagar, Vol XVII, originally published (download, 65MB, 779 pages, may have missing pages) in 1884. Click on images to see them in bigger size. All the pictures in this article are taken by
Harshad). Check more pictures of Ahmednagar by clicking here

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I am nagari(ck) i.e. citizen of Ahmednagar in Maharashtra state of India.  अहमदनगर (महाराष्ट्र)