Saturday, 25 April 2015

Lutyen's New Delhi and Qutab Minar

The HQ of the Ministry of External Affairs, the Prime Minister's Office and the Defence Ministry designed by eminent British architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens forming part of an impressive and lasting legacy left to New Delhi by Lutyens. During the 1920s and 1930s he was responsible for much of the architectural design when India was part of the British Empire.
India Gate commemorates the 70,000 Indian soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the British Army during World War l.
Rashtrapati Bhavan the residence of the President of India formally the Viceroy's House
images courtesy of wiki
Built as a Victory Tower in 1192, the Qutab Minar is the tallest minaret in the world. It was inspired by the minaret of Jam in Afghanistan, and is an important example of Afghan architecture which later evolved into Indo-Islamic Architecture. It is a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site together with the surrounding buildings and monuments.
The bands of intricate carving are in the Kufic style of Islamic calligraphy
A further tower was planned known as the Alai Minar. It was conceived to be twice as high as the Victory Tower, but the construction was abandoned. However, it is interesting to see the remains of the giant rubble masonry core that still stands today. It would have been covered with dressed stone on completion
Carved stone cloister columns to the entrance and inside the Quwwatul-Islam Mosque which sits at the centre of the complex
Built in 1193 and although now lying in ruins it is still possible to appreciate and see the Mosques indigenous corbelled arches, motifs and geometric patterns amongst the Islamic architectural structures.
image courtesy wiki
A 23ft iron pillar, weighing 6.5 tons, and dating back to 375 stands within the ruins of the mosque. It is an enigma being made of 98 percent wrought iron which has stood for over 1,600 years without rusting or decomposing. The indentation on the pillar is the result of a cannonball fired at close range during Nadir Shah's invasion of Delhi in 1739.
Close to the Victory Tower lies the tomb of Imam Zamin - a sufi saint who came to India in 1500 from Turkestan. He lived in the complex during the reign of Sikandar Lodi. He built his own mausoleum here and died in 1539. Inside the sides are carved with perforated 'Jali' screens characteristic of the Lodi Period
It is time to head off back to the hotel, have our supper, get an early night,

and be ready to board the early morning Shatabdi Express train from Delhi to Agra where we have a date with two iconic Indian monuments

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Shades of Saffron

Our feet had barely touched Indian soil before garlands of fresh marigolds were placed around our necks, this was to set a welcoming pattern throughout our travels in northern India. Gifted garlands are offered as a sign of honour and respect.
Marigolds, orange and yellow, are the traditional flowers at Hindu weddings. Lord Vishnu and his wife Goddess Lakshmi are worshipped with marigolds.

Marigolds symbolise brightness and positive energy.  Orange rarely enters the spectrum of colours I choose, but it is greatly loved in India where it represents peace and purity. 
It is, therefore, no surprise that orange is a part of the Indian flag

it is the colour of the Crocus sativus stamens grown in Kashmir for their prized saffron
a colour often chosen by Sikhs for their turbans 
 and the Saffron coloured robes worn by Buddhist monks 
I am discovering that I now appreciate and like orange more!
A black marble platform marks the spot where Mahjatma Gandhi's cremation took place on the 31st January 1948, one day after his assassination. An eternal flame burns and the marble platform is always wreathed in garlands of fresh marigolds. 
Jama Masjid Mosque, Delhi was built by the fifth Mughal Emperor of India, Shahjahan, who laid its foundation stone in October 1650. It took six years to construct using six thousand skilled labourers assisted by the best chiselers, sculptors, engineers, calligraphers and eminent artisans 
Emperor Humayun
Humayun's Tomb was built in 1565 nine years after the Emperors death by his senior widow Bega Begam.  Built within a walled enclosure it features garden squares, pathways, water channels, and at its centre is his dome topped mausoleum. There are several other tombs of Mughal rulers within the walled enclosure, but the tomb of Emperor Humayun is considered an architectural achievement of the highest order having a World Heritage listing. 
One of the entrance gates
This gateway served as the southern entrance to the Arab Sarai - a complex built to accommodate the Persian craftsmen involved in the building of Humayun's garden tomb
The serene and peaceful garden squares laid out with pools and water rills
Humayun's mausoleum was to pave the way to the building of the Taj Mahal 
Humayun's sarcophagus lies alone in the main octagonal chamber, however, his body actually lies in the basement below. Mecca is to the West and his body is aligned north to south with his face turned to the right looking in the direction of Mecca 

Saturday, 18 April 2015

First Impressions of India

Red Kites patrolling azure skies accompanied us on much of our travelling through northern India.

Now I don't understand why I entertained any apprehensions concerning visiting India. Some advice was proffered by well meaning friends along with anxieties as a result of my own too vivid imagination - none of which materialised. We remained free of the traveller's dreaded "Delhi Belly" probably as a result of eating in clean establishments and each being given a litre of pure water every day. It was a wonderful journey, and we would happily return to see more..... 
 magical landscapes
sublime monuments
images via wiki
 wonderful birds - Hoopoe 
via wiki
flowers - Tecoma stans - yellow bells
and even Holy Cows!
From the sublime to the humbling, the contrasts in India are huge - a lumbering elephant ponderously negotiates the busy traffic in Delhi
It is impossible to imagine the plight of this little family living on a traffic island in central Delhi. Mother, father, grandparents, and 9 small children, some of which were running dangerously amongst the cars begging. The tree their protection from the weather, the ground their resting place
Flew into Delhi and enjoyed exploring its buildings along with Sir Edwin Lutyens architectural designs for New Delhi. Took a train to Agra and visited two of India's most iconic monuments. Flew north to Kashmir sitting in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountain chain where we stayed on a Royal Houseboat in the middle of Dal Lake, Srinagar, summer retreat of both the Mughal Emperors and the British Raj
Above all we met lots of beautiful, friendly and very welcoming people
More tales from India soon