A tiny hamlet in Madhya Pradesh that offers a quaint getaway combining a unique homestay, art residency and an encounter with a renowned musical gharana.
Maihar was not even a dot on the map for me truly speaking, when we set off on this journey. But, I was intensely curious when I learnt that this fairly obscure little township in Madhya Pradesh housed Art Ichol, a world class platform for creating, sharing and promoting the creative arts.
The dream project of Ambica Beri, Maihar offered three unique propositions, The Art Ichol skill center, Amaria, a writer’s retreat and The Maihar Heritage Home. All of which added up to enough of a draw to see us hop onto a plane and fly into Jabalpur one bright summer morning. A 4-hour drive from the airport and we found ourselves at the heritage home stay, a quaint bungalow with hand painted frescoes, lotus ponds and four-poster beds.
Waiting at the century-old walled family home of the Beri clan was the very charming Ambica, who has been a long-standing lover and patron of the arts and is running for over a quarter century the famous Gallery Sanskriti in Kolkata.
Our days at the homestay were filled lovely home-cooked meals, cold pressed sugarcane juice, pakoras and endless cups of tea. A pottery and ceramic centre within the premises offered a lovely walk-through and a chance to get onto the wheel and get our hands dirty, literally. One can sit in its many corners and dabble with clay forever at the serene and lovely space.
As the heat abated and the sun sets Ambica whisks us off to her dream project. Situated on the highway connecting Bandhavgarh to Khajuraho is a creative art escape called Art Ichol, an art centre and residency space rolled in one. We enter a rolling green campus and an incredible world that is fit enough to qualify as an international quality museum!
Life-size statue of legendary sarod player Baba Allauddin Khan, cast in bronze, to a larger than life installation of a brick temple by Jacques Kaufmann, an installation artist from France/Switzerland, works of noted artists who have been here for residencies dot the space. We wander around feeling a bit like Alice.
The centerpiece of the campus is the Khaprael Kothi, the art centre made of glass and rustic tiled roof. Radical use of installations crafted out of scrap rescued by designer Narayan Chandra Sinha from the Railways, the family mines, and even shipping yards down south makes for some fascinating viewing here, even as the space charms you with its simplistic, airy feel.
Maihar has a very special place in Hindustani classical music, which I was totally oblivious to before I visited the place. The Maihar Gharana started by Allauddin Khan went on to give the country prominent musicians including sitarists late Ravi Shankar, late Nikhil Banerjee, and Sarodist Jotin Bhattacharya, Allauddin Khan’s son sarod player late Ali Akbar Khan, daughter Annapurna Devi. Even Hariprasad Chaurasia owes his musical lineage to this tiny princely outpost.
Baba’s home stands a homage to a man who single-handedly put this tiny hamlet on the international music map. It is also difficult to find another Gharana that has produced maestros in sitar, sarod, surbahar, flute and violin!
The famous temple of Sharda Devi that is located on Trikuta Hill at Maihar, which is counted amongst the 51 Shakti Peethas in the country. A cable car takes us to the top of the hill with lovely views. You can choose to climb up the 1063 steps to the top if you have the energy. The temple is clean and has a tree of hope where people tie wish threads. It is a simple, sweet and spiritual outing.
- Learn the art of ceramic making.
- Familiarise with traditional techniques of brick making and pottery.
- Visit Panna Wildlife sanctuary
- Visit the famous Ma Sharda Devi temple, a Shakti Peeth
- Watch the Maihar Band perform.
- Visit legendary sarod artist, Baba Allauddin Khan’s house and resting place.
- Visit limestone quarries and mines of Maihar.
Day 1: Arrive at Maihar. Transit to Maihar Bungalow. Breakfast at the Maihar Bungalow. Post breakfast, get to know the residency. Introduction to ceramics, facilities and programme in short. Visit to Art Ichol. Live performance by the Maihar Band set up by Baba Allauddin Khan in Ichol.
Day 2: Ceramic/art workshop at the Bungalow/Art Ichol. Visit Baba Allauddin Khan’s home. Dinner at Art Ichol
Day 3: Visit to the famous Sharda Devi temple, a Shakti Peeth. Situated at the top of Trikoota hill which is around 5 km from the railway station, Maa Sharda Devi temple has great relevance for the followers of Devi Maa.
Day 4: Trip to Khajuraho. The temples are about 140 km from Maihar. Spend the day exploring the temples. Or a wildlife safari at Panna which is just 75 km away.
Good to Know
By train: It is between the stations of Katni and Satna – most trains halt at Maihar station.
By air: Khajuraho, 120km away. Travel time 3 hrs (road under reconstruction at some places). Jabalpur: 160km away. Travel time 3 hrs.
By car: Satna – Maihar Highway
Weather: Gets very hot in summers. Best to avoid April- July. The Panna National Park closes for the monsoon months so if you want to visit that, avoid mid June to mid July to ensure you are not disappointed.