Imagine standing in a room in a large museum. As you look around the dimly lit gallery, you begin to recognize shapes: a basket, an arrow, a beautifully decorated carving, a shield. Some of the objects are unrecognizable to you. What if these objects could speak? What would they tell you about themselves? How have they been used? Where did they come from? How did they get to this museum? Whom do they belong to?”
― Ari Berk
Maihar (A religious town for Hindus), is known for the temple of the revered mother goddess Sharda situated on Trikuta hill. It is said that when lord Shiva was carrying the body of the dead mother goddess (Mai in Hindi) Sati, her necklace (har in Hindi) fell at this place and hence the name “Maihar” (Maihar = Mai+Har, meaning the “necklace of mother”). It is also famous for the ‘Maihar Gharana’, founded by Allauddin Khan which has been the epitome of Hindustani classical music since decades.
So no wonder it is the preferred choice for setting up a center of another art form, an open air art gallery, that too of a different type. As you drive to Maihar from Satna in MP, India, about 9 km before Maihar, on your left, there situated a heaven for art lovers in its truest sense! Surrounded by lush green fields of wheat and mustard, Art Ichol is an artist’s paradise. Despite being situated on the route connecting two world famous tourist spots, Khajuraho and Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, Art Ichol isn’t not very famaous. In fact it is an added advantage. Here you can spend hours, appreciating those beauties without getting disturbed by the unruly crowd.
The main material that is used for creating the art displays and sculptures, at the Art Ichol is recycled waste, old discarded machinery, pieces of stones and wood, garbage components, and industrial scrap. You will find it everywhere, be it flower pots, be it lamp shades, be it handle of the gate. Even for its building, traditional eco-friendly building techniques and local materials were used.
The center boasts sculptures of many well-known as well as lesser-known but equally talented artists from all over the world who regularly visit the place during numerous workshops. Art Ichol conducts workshops regularly in local schools on theatre, music, and art forms and attracts artists to stay for various lengths of time. Besides being a creative art center, it is also displaying benevolence by disseminating knowledge and developing the skills of the women and children in the surrounding villages.
Don’t underestimate Art Ichol as just a property, rather it is a never before feeling. The entire campus is divided into three main zones. A vast lawn which houses many of the artefacts and sculptures and also a café. A big indoor area where a large collection of stone, metal, and ceramic artefacts and other articles are aesthetically displayed. The third zone is the residential area and courtyards where the inhabitants can try their hands on varoius activities as carving stone and wood, painting or just doing nothing.
How to Reach:
The nearest airport is located at Khajuraho, at a distance of 127 kms. Khajuraho airport (HJR) receives flights from Varanasi and Delhi.
Art Ichol is conveniently located at Satna – Maihar state highway at a distance of 32 kms from Satna, 10 kms from Maihar and 174 kms from Jabalpur. The public transport service is not good in M.P., so travelling on your own or hired vehicle is advised.
The nearest railway station is Maihar (MYR), followed by Satna (STA) and Jabalpur (JBP). Both, Satna and Jabalpur are big junctions and well connected to the rest of the country. Jabalpur is the Headquarters of West Central Railway.
Where to Stay:
The main Art Ichol Campus itself has well-appointed rooms, studios and a café. There are four comfortable airy rooms with fully furnished kitchen. There is a gymnasium too. Maihar being a famous religious city, has many small hotels although not luxurious ones. Satna offeres some better choices but again not luxurious hotels.
When to Go:
Art Ichol can be visited at any time of the year, yet months of extreme summer can be avoided.
Maihar is considered holy for Hindus, India. Khajuraho, a world famous place, is another attraction, at a distance of 125 kms. You can find a number of luxurious hotels here. For nature and wildlife lovers, Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve is at 100 kms form Art Ichol whereas Panna National Park at 85 kms. The famous Bhedaghat waterfall at Jabalpur is at 175 kms.
P.S. – All the pictures were taken from mobile phone camera, as the DSLR’s are heavily chargeable.