Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Trip to Sailana

Since long, our family had longed for a weekend trip to some nearby place. However because of my mom's health, and scarcity of leaves from my work, we were prevented from doing so for quite some time. Recently I planned to visit my parents on "Rakhi". By this time mom also had regained her full strength and confidence (after her surgery). And we had all the reasons, time and opportunity to take our much wanted trip. Mom herself had planned it all out much before we (me and my wife) reached Ujjain. Dad had booked the taxi, a comfortable 8 seater Toyota Qualis, meaning we 5 had all the luxurious space to stretch our legs and take a nap if we wanted, while on the run.

How to Reach Sailana and where to stay:

Sailana is a small village in the district of Ratlam. It is 25 km from Ratlam city, and just 50 km from Rajasthan border. Closest (within Rajasthan) to Sailana is the district Banswada. Ratlam is a big railway station and connected to Mumbai by "Avantika Express" which runs daily. Also Ratlam is only 115 km by road from Ujjain district which is a very important holy city of Central India, one of the four places where "Kumbh" takes place every 12 years, and my home town :-). Ujjain is a "junction" speaking in terms of railways and is well connected to Delhi by "Nizamuddin Express" on daily basis. Two important trains here which could connect you to Indore-Ratlam-Ujjain belt (called "Malwa" region) on daily basis are:
  1. Avantika Express: Indore - Ujjain - Ratlam - Mumbai Central.
  2. Nizamuddin Express: Indore - Ujjain - Hazrat Nizamuddin (New Delhi)
If you plan to start your journey from Indore or Ujjain, then hiring a taxi would be the best option. If you are taking a train, I would recommend you to halt in Indore (if you want to shop) or Ujjain (if you want to worship and cleanse your soul) and take a taxi from there till Ratlam. The lesser spirited souls can halt in Ratlam itself, and save time on traveling to Sailana. Indore also has a domestic airport (if you want to shell out more bucks) and is well connected with Delhi / Mumbai / Pune / Bengaluru / Chennai / Nagpur.

Best time to visit Sailana:

Monsoons, morning hours only. Sailana is a small village and as such the places we visited had little or no lighting.

How we reached Sailana:

As I said, we hired a Toyota Qualis from Ujjain till Sailana and back. The road is fairly decent compared to standards of MP (roads in MP are the worst in India). The entire trip cost us 273 km. The best time to reach Sailana is around 11:00 AM, as around that time all shops / village is / are buzzing with activity. This also gives one ample time to explore all places, and still make it in time for a hearty lunch.

Starting from Ujjain we stopped at village Ingoria (10 km from Ujjain) for breakfast, the trademark breakfast "Poha and Jalebi" of MP.

On our way we crossed the city of Barnagar. The road from Ujjain till Barnagar is awesome, and the traffic is also minimal.

However from Barnagar till Ratlam, and within Ratlam city the roads are pretty bad. But once you cross Ratlam city, the road is again neat till Sailana. We also crossed two rivers "Gambhir" and "Chambal" on our way.

Coming back to Sailana, what to do, where to go:

Sailana was formerly a princely state, and I guess, it was a part of Rajasthan. Post independence it was merged in MP. A Fort belonging to the then royal family still stands tall in heart of Sailana, and the area is known as "Palace Chauraha", or "Rajwada".  A descendant of the royal family still occupies part of the fort, so we were told, by the officials present at the fort. The main tourist attraction of Sailana, is the Cactus Garden, housed inside this fort. It boasts a myriad collection of various types of cacti, some of them small, bush like. But most of them, large, huge and gigantic. It gives us a feeling, as if we have entered the neolithic era. The place is very serene and quiet, and the silence is only disturbed occasionally by squeals of peacocks, who thrive at the place. The place is also yet unaffected by commercialization, as the entry ticket is only Rs 5 per person. The cost to carry a single camera inside is just Rs 10 per instrument. The fort houses some empty cages, hinting that some animals were also kept here for display. But this was later discontinued for lack of animals / funds / rights to cage animals. I strongly recommend this place for flora enthusiasts.

Next we went to "Kedareshwar" temple of Lord Shiva. This is again famous in Sailana, and actually there are two of them, both 4 km both from the fort (but in opposite directions). We visited the one, which had a better connecting road! The temple is situated in a man made cave (carved out from a cliff of igneous rocks). The cliff along with many others surrounds a small valley. From the top of the cliff, a small stream of monsoon rain water forms a waterfall and joins a small pond of water in the valley. From here a river originates and flows down into the plains of Rajasthan. The whole setting is very beautiful, and quiet. Especially during the monsoons, all this is blessed with lush greenery, and is literally a treat for the eyes. After offering our prayers to Lord Shiva, all of us, including my parents climbed down the cliff into the valley (do not panic, there are stairs). We simply sat by the pond, frolicked in water and had lots of fun. Had we brought along a spare set of clothes, we could have had a nice swim / bath. This place also, I must comment, is free from commercialization and priests haggling devotees for money and donation.

Where to dine:

On our way back to Ujjain, we stopped at Ratlam, at a restaurant called "Palash". The place is pretty clean and has clean wash rooms. The food was also nice, and I was pleasantly surprised to find continental food on the menu. Though the place is pure vegetarian, they do have a bar, which is housed in a different section of the premises. On way back, we again took a halt at village Ingoria for "Chai".

The conclusion:

I never imagined, there could be such an interesting place so near to Ujjain, ideal for a day's outing. I strongly recommend this place to all people visiting the "Malwa" region of MP. I would say, visit this place, when you have just a day to spare and want to spend it peacefully, and experience what India was like some 100 years ago. Cheers.
Hey, this text is added to this post, after the post was published. I came to know later that Sailana also has a bird sanctuary. Funny, this was missed from the wikipedia article on Sailana.

--------- The Story in Images -----------------------

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