“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add colour to my sunset sky.”
The Drums are beating loud and fast, my vision is blurred. Maybe it is the bhang, the colourful faces of people around hailing from 4 countries, or the funniest bhangra dance steps I’ve ever seen. I lift my head to catch my breath, my wife throws marigold petals on my face which already look multicoloured in shades of green, yellow, red, pink and purple. This feeling is that of pure, unadulterated joy and as I hug my wife wishing her a happy holi for the 20th time, I realise that I’ll remember this one for the rest of my life…
It all started last year when my friends Aparna & Sahaj, partners at Doorways Travel, announced that we’re doing a Holi themed event in central India. I was delighted just at the thought of this idea and began about all the fun that we’d have along this trip. However, the real challenge was getting guests from the USA and Germany to sign up for something this crazy. Be that as it may, they did manage to pull it off and just 3 days before Holi we found ourselves in the rustic and charming property of Ahilya fort. This heritage fort place is run by Richard Holkar and his wife Sally Holkar who are the soul of this place. Mrs Sally also runs REHWA an organisation weaving life into the lives of skilled women of Maheshwar, M.P. Additionally, they receive help from the most humble, loving people who make you fall in love with Fort Ahilya.
As we reached the Ahilya Fort from the airport in Indore, Aparna, Sahaj and Kunta Bai welcomed us all with radiant smiles and marigold garlands. Located at the banks of the holy river Narmada, the Ahilya Fort unveils an incredible story of the iron-willed queen- Ahilya Bai Holkar. From commissioning 72 temples across India, including the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, to adding Maheshwar on the textile map of India with its elegant and breathable Maheshwari Sarees, Ahilya Bai is an awe-inspiring legend for every aspiring Indian.
The stage was set for three days of an immersive India experience planned by team Doorways and we were super stoked to see what awaited us.
Day 1: We found love on the first evening, losing ourselves in the moment, listening to the flute concert as the sun melted into the Narmada. Dressed for dinner in our comfortable shoes, we boarded our cars to the Holkar Farms. With candles all around us, we were transported to a royal camp setting for celebrations with food, drinks and laughter. Interestingly, every ingredient used to cook a meal at the Ahilya Fort is brought from their own farms and is managed by Prince Richard Holkar himself.
Day 2: Yoga by the banks of the Narmada, a quick breakfast and we were ready for an incredible tour of Mandu, where the songs sung by Baz Bahadur and Rani Roopmati can still be heard. The Fort which divides our country into north and south holds within several stories of love, betrayal and conquest. What was once the fourth capital of the Mughals and was as embellished as Delhi in its glory days, today Mandu continues to stand tall as a must-visit.
With the rising moon in the sky, it was now time to be part of the royal tradition. A grand Holika fire was lit in front of the Ahilya mansion and the pooja ceremony was commemorated. Fire, the symbol of purity, rose to the skies to burn our egos, doubts and resentments into nothingness. As the priest blessed the guests, we followed the turban-clad men down the steps to the ghat where boats were waiting for us. We floated in the lap of the Narmada river, enchanted by the Bhajans of Krishna sung by musicians from another boat. With 5000 lamps floating all around us and the most auspicious full moon of the year glowing in the sky above, it felt like a dream. Tears of joy trickled down my cheeks and I couldn’t help but think that we were indeed in heaven.
Day 3: This was the day that we had all been eagerly waiting for. Humbled by the experience of last evening, we were ready to let go and immerse ourselves into the colourful fun of Holi. Nagada drums marked the start of celebrations, Badhai dancers got us going and the people of Maheshwar celebrated with us as we festooned the streets by throwing flower petals and colouring our white Kurtas in the colours of life. Offering ourself and the colours to Goddess Narmada we took a holy dip and basked in the glory of this event called life.
Special thanks to Sagar Saxena for the incredible event pictures. @tourwithsagar
Why you should plan your Madhya Pradesh trip right now
Where: Situated in Madhya Pradesh, India, Maheshwar is a 2 hrs drive from Indore, the nearest airport and railway station.
Travel Partners: Doorways Travel
Get in Touch: www.doorwaystravel.com, or mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay: Ahilya Fort. For info, visit ahilyafort or mail at email@example.com
Recommended stay: 2 Nights 3 Days
Best time to Visit: Winter(October-March) & Monsoon(July-September)
Thank you! Keep the wanderlust alive.
#lostbandar #tourwithsagar #doorwaystravel