In the days of old Bhandarej was known as Champavati, and after a disaster left it in ruins it was named Bhadrawati. In time this little town in Rajasthan’s Dausa district was called Bhandarej as we know it today. Much of the area which lay in ruins has been excavated.
Located 60km away from the ghost town of Bhangarh, Bhandarej Fort was founded seven centuries ago, on the banks of the Bhadrawati River, by Badgujar Rajputs and Chauhans Bhandarej. It was wrested by Kachchwaha chieftain Dhula Rao Sahib, whose clan rose to become senior officers under Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II (1700-1744), the founder of Jaipur. The fortified town is approached through four gates — the Bhandan Darwaja, Khedli Darwaja, Meena Darwaja and Bawri Darwaja.
Ancient lore has it that it was known as Dev-Nagari, because of its plethora of temples. In the November of 2011, a grand ashavmedha yagna was organised of 1,008 kundiya yagna which was attended by personages of eminence and sadhus from all over India. Back in the day Bhandarej was famous for its terracotta vessels, lattice work and unique sculptures, richly evidenced by finds during the excavations.
Things to see and do
Go on day-long horse safaris or half-day camel safaris, with lunch thrown in. On your jaunts, you’ll ride past silent ret-ka-tilas (sand forts) in the open desert area that touches the highway.
Explore the five-tiered Bara Baori with its arched windows, traditional paintings, sculpted carvings and courtyards, the 18th century, 3-storied Bhandarej Baoli and and the archeological remains in the town.
Enjoy a walk around the village to see traditional crafts carried out at the potters’, ironmongers’ and shoemakers’ colonies. Bhadrawati Palace, now a heritage hotel also arranges visits to the Abhaneri and Bhangarh.
You can also visit the picturesque village of Kalakho (8km) which is lovely in the rains. Straddling golden fields, boasting of lakes bursting at the seams with the monsoon’s bounty, it is a picture of serene beauty. This woodsy part of the Aravallis is the perfect playground for birdwatchers. Let your feathered friends lead you right up the hills, to old forts and the panoramic view from the lofty pinnacles.
Where To Stay and Eat
Dhula Rao’s descendant, Rawal Raghubir Singh of Dhula, has converted the elegant sandstone Bhadrawati Palace into a heritage hotel. In Kalakho-Ambari village, deep in the interiors of the Aravallis Dera Lakeview Retreat offers accommodation in 16 AC portahuts, each with private facilities. There is a lot to discover
around Kalakho and a number of activities are on offer, ranging from safaris to camel cart rides. The Umaid Lake Palace is set next to a lake, albeit closer to NH11.
Located in East Rajasthan, just off the Agra-Jaipur Highway. When to go: October to March is the best time to visit Bhandarej. Getting There: Driving down from Delhi or Jaipur is the best option, leaving one the option of squeezing in as many excursions as desired. It’s good going till Sikandra. Journey time: By road, it is 11/2 hrs from Jaipur, and 4 hrs from Delhi. Route from Jaipur NH11 to Sikandra crossing via Dausa; left off NH11 and drive another 5 km till you reach Bhandarej.
Kalakho stands across golden fields, boasting of lakes. It lies amid the Aravalli Hills, beckoning tantalisingly as you drive on a dirt road zigzagging past mustard fields, a hidden getaway in the true sense of the word. It escapes the attention that so easily comes Rajasthan’s way and makes no appearance in the tourist itinerary. Perhaps that’s what makes it such a wonderful place for a holiday. Kalakho lies just a few kilometres off the least-explored stretch of the Golden Triangle that connects the historic capitals of Delhi, Jaipur and Agra. Go there on a journey of discovery and you will not be disappointed. Kalakho is set amid fields against the backdrop of hills. This woodsy part of the Aravallis is the perfect playground for birdwatchers. Let your love for birds lead you right up the hills, to old forts and to the pinnacles offering panoramic views. Those with a yen for solitude should stride forth with a packed lunch.
Things To See And Do
You’ll rarely find names like Abhaneri, Madhogarh, Bhangarh and Bhandarej in travel guides, or even on most maps, but these are all places that can be easily accessed from Kalakho, spread along NH11 between Bharatpur and Dausa. The Dera Lakeview Retreat, which is one stay option in Kalakho, lies deep in the interiors of the Aravallis, in Kalakho Ambari Village in Sikrai Tehsil (Dausa District), 12 km from Sikandra on NH11 and 90 km short of Jaipur.
There is a lot to discover around Kalakho and a number of activities are on offer, ranging from safaris to camel cart rides. The Dera Retreat offers a different experience from Umaid Lake Palace, which is set next to a lake, albeit closer to NH11. You could spend a night in each place to enjoy their unique charms.
Chand Baoli: Drive straight past the busy Sikandra crossroads and on to the village of Gular, then take a right to Abhaneri. The 8thcentury baoli (stepwell) here is enormous. Built by Raja Chand, a Nikumbha Rajput of the Chamana dynasty, it is close to 65 ft deep. To reach the water, you have to go down 3,500 narrow and steep steps, punctuated by 13 landings. Today, the stepwell is under the aegis of the Archaeo logical Survey of India (ASI), which has managed to make this age old monument look like a thing of the future, with their heavy metal frames and cordons keeping people away from the carved stone idols here.
Harshata Mata Temple: Just across from the well is the Harshata Mata shrine, dedicated to the Goddess Parvati. Built in the 7thcentury Mahameru style, it bears a surprisingly strong resemblance to the intricate carvings and ornate arcades seen at the temples of Khajuraho.
When to go: October to March is the best time to visit Kalakho, but it is in the monsoon that the lake becomes full. The green surroundings then are quite scenic and perfect for a romantic getaway
Location: This Meena tribal village is in east Rajasthan, just off the Agra-Jaipur Highway.