Monday, March 31, 2014

Very Old Delhi

Another day we took the metro down to the Qutb Minar.  This is in the site of the first of the seven cities of Delhi, established in 1060.  The Qutb Minar itself is a red sandstone tower of Qutb Minar 72.5 m high, with alternating angular and rounded flutings.  It was built around 1200. The iron pillar in the mosque compound was brought from elsewhere in India. It bears a Sanskrit inscription from the 4th century AD describing the exploits of a ruler named Chandra, believed to be the Gupta King Chandragupta II (375-413). 

The Iron Pillar is built up of many hundreds of small wrought-iron blooms welded together and is the largest known composite iron object from so early a period. The remarkable lack of corrosion is attributable to the combination of several factors, among them the high corrosion-resistance of wrought iron, the climatic conditions in Delhi, and the likelihood that it was frequently anointed with ghee (melted butter). The deep cavity at the top suggests that it may at one time have been crowned by a Garuda image. 

We took the metro back to Chandni Chowk - one of the oldest and busiest markets in Old Delhi.  The name actually means "moonlight square" and it was named after the fact that a canal used to run the length of it that reflected the moonlight.  A very chaotic place now!

We walked to the Lahore Gate, the entry into the Red Fort.  The Red Fort Complex was built as the palace fort of Shahjahanabad – the new capital of the fifth Mughal Emperor of India, Shah Jahan.  Its name refers to the massive enclosing walls of red sandstone.  

The private apartments consist of a row of pavilions connected by a continuous water channel, known as the Nahr-i-Behisht (Stream of Paradise). The Red Fort is considered to represent the zenith of Mughal creativity which, under the Shah Jahan, was brought to a new level of refinement.  The garden design strongly influenced later buildings and gardens in Rajasthan, Delhi and Agra.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

New Delhi

We spent a couple of days in Delhi - one day we went down to the Lotus Temple - otherwise known as the Baha'i House of Worship - a multi-denominational temple.

We took a walk through the Lodi Gardens and then down to the Parliament building. The photo below shows the Sansad Bhavan - Parliament House.

Vijay Chowk - Secretariat Buildings and the Prime Minister's Office

Looking down Rajpath towards India Gate

India Gate and the Statue Canopy

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Humayan's Tomb in Delhi

This tomb, built in 1570, is of particular cultural significance as it was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent. It inspired several major architectural innovations, culminating in the construction of the Taj Mahal.

The tomb of Humayun, second Mughal Emperor of India, was built by his widow, Biga Begum in 1569-70, 14 years after his death, at a cost of 1.5 million rupees. The tomb is in the centre of a large garden, laid out in char baah (four-fold) style, with pools joined by channels. 

The tomb and its surrounding structures are substantially in their original state, and there have been high quality restorations over the past few years funded by the Aga Khan.
The importance of Humayun's Tomb in the evolution of Mughal architecture is great. It is the first of a long series of dynastic tombs and innovative in a number of ways, notably by virtue of the fact that it introduced the garden tomb to the subcontinent. Humayun had travelled widely in the Islamic world, notably in Persia and central Asia, and brought back with him ideas that were applied by the architect of his tomb, under the direction of his widow, in this tomb.


After visiting the Taj Mahal, we spent the rest of our day in Agra visiting other local sites.  Since we'd gone to the Taj very early in the morning, we had breakfast and then set off for the Agra Fort.  

Near the gardens of the Taj Mahal stands the important 16th-century Mughal monument known as the Red Fort of Agra. This powerful fortress of red sandstone comprises many fairy-tale palaces, such as the Jahangir Palace and the Khas Mahal, built by Shah Jahan; audience halls, such as the Diwan-i-Khas; and two very beautiful mosques.  Emperor Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal, was imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb in Agra Fort, from which he had a view of the building erected for his deceased wife.

After Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son in Agra Fort, this was his view of the Taj Mahal.

We took a rickshaw across the river.  Here is Itimad-ud-Daulah's Tomb - built several years before the Taj Mahal.

View of the Taj Mahal from the opposite bank of the river.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Taj Mahal

We drove to Agra and arrived in the late afternoon.  We could go up to our hotel roof and look out at the Taj.  We decided to get up at dawn to see the Taj, however the gates only opened at 6.20 and by that time it was already light.

The south gate and view of the Taj through the gateway.

The Taj Mahal is an immense mausoleum of white marble, built in Agra between 1631 and 1648 by order of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, after she died in giving birth to their 14th child.

The sun rises and casts a glow on the east side of the Taj.  The Taj Mahal is considered to be the greatest architectural achievement in the whole range of Indo-Islamic architecture. Its recognised architectonic beauty has a rhythmic combination of solids and voids, concave and convex and light shadow; such as arches and domes further increases the aesthetic aspect. The colour combination of lush green scape reddish pathway and blue sky over it showcases the monument in ever changing tints and moods. 

The exquisite octagonal marble lattice screen encircling both cenotaphs is a piece of superb workmanship. It is highly polished and richly decorated with inlay work. The borders of the frames are inlaid with precious stones representing flowers executed with wonderful perfection. 


Fatehpur Sikri

After 3 days in Jaipur we set off for Agra, with a stop at Fatehpur Sikri on the way.  Built by Emperor Akbar in honour of Salim Chishti, a famous Sufi saint, the walled city of Fatehpur Sikri was the capital of the Mughal Empire for 14 years.

The city, which the English traveller Ralph Fitch considered in 1585 as 'considerably larger than London and more populous', comprised a series of palaces, public buildings and mosques, as well as living areas for the court, the army, servants of the king and for an entire population.

 Diwan-i-Am, the Hall of Public Audience, is encircled by a series of porticos which are broken up by the insertion of the imperial box where Akbar, surrounded by his ministers and officers meted out justice. This box communicates directly with Daulat Khana (Imperial Palace), flanked to the north by Diwan-i-Kas (Hall of Private Audience), called the 'Jewel House', a monument known for its central plan, which comprises an extraordinary capital surmounted by a circular balcony: the 'throne'.

Jami Masjid
 The great mosque (Jama Masjid), one of the most spacious in India (165 m by 133 m) could accommodate some 10,000 faithful; it was completed in 1571-72 and according to the dedicatory inscription deserves no less respect than Mecca. It incorporates, in the centre of the court, the tomb of Shaikh Salim, an extraordinary Christian masterpiece of sculpted decoration, further embellished under the reign of Jahangir.