I did a little bit of research on things to see in Kanpur since I planned to be there on work. Unfortunately work expanded to fill up my time, and I never used my research. So, in the hope that you will be luckier than me, here are the three places which I short-listed.
Bithoor is the center of the universe, according to some. The Brahmavart Ghat on the Ganga is believed to be the place where mankind was created by Brahma. When the British defeated the Marathas in the early part of the 19th century, the last Peshwa was banished to Bithoor. His adoptive son, Nana Saheb, was involved in the First War of Independence, in 1857. In retaliation, his palace and the temples of Bithoor were razed by the British general Havelock in July of that year. I am told that the ruins have been bought recently by someone who plans to build a resort there. If this happens, the forlorn but peaceful atmosphere of the ghats will definitely change.
Bhitargaon temple is usually dated to around 450 CE. The dating makes it the earliest known brick temple in the country, and the largest temple from the Gupta period. It was first listed by Alexander Cunningham, India’s first Archaeological Surveyor, in 1877, and the first photographs were taken in 1878. The structure is said to have collapsed in 1894 after being struck by lightning. An early 20th century restoration is now believed to be largely fanciful. It changed the shape of the entrance arch, did not use many of the bricks of the original structure, and there is a controversy about the shape of the shikhara in the reconstruction. As a result of these controversies, there has never been a complete restoration of the restoration. Although it is a bit far from Kanpur, it would be really interesting to visit this structure.
Jajmau is an important archaeological site. Recent finds in this region include some of the oldest pottery in the country. Having been to similar sites in the past, I would bet even money that the digs would not be interesting to ordinary people like me. Apparently the Kanpur museum has some of the artefacts which were found here. I could have visited the museum, if I had the time. But since the days were very nice, and the open air more inviting, I could have visited the mazar of Hazrat Makhdoom Shah Ala in Jajmau. This is supposed to have been built in 1358 by Feroze Shah Tughlaq. One reads that it is a protected monument, but the relevant section from the Archaeological Survey of India’s website is currently under construction.
What I did see, by forcing my taxi to stop at the roadside, were beautiful bird-watching sites by the Ganga. Immediately after crossing the new Ganga bridge across the Kanpur bypass, at the edge of Unnao district, the road cuts through wetlands (picture above). There is the beginning of “development” at places along the road. This is still too little to impact the environment. In the ten minutes or so, which the impatient driver gave me, I saw a flock of cormorants, some coots, and a fast-moving pair of ducks taking off from a pond. Nawabganj Bird Sanctuary is about an hour’s drive away, but it seems that in winter one need not go that far for good birding.