Archive

Archive for the ‘Travelogue’ Category

Dal Lake ~ Sikhara Ride

September 4, 2013 Leave a comment

Dal Lake ~ Sikhara Ride

~ Floating through Paradise ~

Dal Lake Map

Dal Lake Map

The city of Srinagar is centered round the beautiful Dal Lake, no wonder Dal Lake is Srinagar’s prime attraction. The lake has a circumference of 15.5 km and covers an area of 21 sq. km. along with a 3 sq. km. are of wetland.

The Dal Lake actually consists of four lakes namely Gagribal, Lokut Dal, Bod Dal and Nagin. Nagin the smallest and the most beautiful of the four is often considered as an independent lake.

The major attraction of Srinagar are also located around the Dal Lake. Hazarat Bal Mosque, Shamkaracharya Temple and the Mughal Gardens (Shalimar, Chashmashahi and Nishat) are alll located around the Dal Lake.

The best way to explore the Dal is the sikhara, the beautifully decorated boat, the once iconic symbol of many Bollywood hits and also the logo of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Tourism Department.

Read more…

Bishnupur, Temple Town

July 10, 2013 18 comments

Bishnupur

Temple Town

Stone has always been in short supply in the vast flood plains of Bengal. Hence the architects had to restore to other substitute. As clay was easily available the burnt clay bricks soon became a good substitute of stone. This gave rise to a new form of temple architecture and lead to the construction of elaborately decorated terracotta temples.

Scattered Temples of Bishnupur, Bankura, West Bengal

Scattered Temples of Bishnupur, Bankura, West Bengal

Terracotta literally means baked earth in Italian but West Bengal has the distinction of housing some of the finest terracotta art in the world. The terracotta art reached its pinnacle under the patronage of the Malla Kings of Bishnupur during the seventeenth century.

Read more…

Gokulchand ~ Stone temple

September 26, 2012 1 comment

Gokulchand Temple, Gokulnagar

~ Fortified Stone Temple ~

Stone has always been in short supply in the vast flood plains of Bengal. Hence the architects had to restore to other substitute. As clay was easily available the burnt clay bricks soon became a good substitute of stone. This gave rise to a new form of temple architecture and lead to the construction of elaborately decorated terracotta temples giving Bengal a place in the world tourist map.

Gokuleswar Temple, Gokulnagar

Gokulchand Temple and natmandir, Gokulnagar

Although numerous brick terracotta temples dot the entire Gangatic West Bengal but they are not the only form of temple architecture. Stone temples do exists in West Bengal and are mainly concentrated in the western region of the state and adds a new dimension to Bengal Temple Architecture.

Read more…

Vizag – Araku Train

September 12, 2012 8 comments

Vizag – Araku Train

~ Broad Gauge Mountain Railway ~

As our Kirandul Fast Passenger made its way through the numerous tunnels and bridges I made a desperate attempt to capture the train meandering train on my camera. Sadly my SLR camera (Vivitar v3600s) was too big to pass through the grilled window of the train.

Kirandul Fast Passenger, with Eastern Ghat in backdrop

Kirandul Fast Passenger, with Eastern Ghat in backdrop

Suddenly I noticed my wife clicking photos with her newly purchased point and shoot digital camera (Olympus Fe310). I grabbed the camera and it easily passed out of the window grill and captured the Kirandul Fast Passenger making a huge loop with the lush green Eastern Ghats in the background.

Read more…

Bhubaneswar ~ A Temple Town

September 5, 2012 5 comments

Bhubaneswar ~ A Temple Town

~ A Compilation of Temples of Bhubaneswar ~

According to legend the city once housed a thousand temples, sadly many of these have crumbled to dust and many more have been reconstructed into modern structures, but the few have survived the test time and still stands to this day are worth a visit and can offer an interesting mix of pilgrimage and history.

Bhubaneswar (Temple Town) Map

Bhubaneswar (Temple Town) Map

The temples of Bhubaneswar are located on the Southern part, which is known as the old city and are majority of them are clustered around the Bindu Sarabor (Lake).

Read more…

Beyond Bishnupur ~ Brick and Stone Temples

August 22, 2012 10 comments

Beyond Bishnupur

Brick and Stone Temples

Stone has always been in short supply in the vast flood plains of Bengal. Hence the architects had to restore to other substitute. As clay was easily available the burnt clay bricks soon became a good substitute of stone. This gave rise to a new form of temple architecture and lead to the construction of elaborately decorated terracotta temples. The terracotta art reached its pinnacle under the patronage of the Malla Kings of Bishnupur during the seventeenth century. The temples are still there turning Bishnupur into one of the most favored tourist spot in West Bengal.

But the tourist attraction of Bishnupur are not restricted to Bishnupur alone. Several non – descriptive towns and villages, located within 50 km radius of Bishnupur, have the distinction of housing some of the spectacular terracotta and stone temples of the state.

So next time in Bishnupur don’t give this places a miss.

Read more…

Qutub Minar and Smith’s Folly ~ An Architectural Disaster

August 15, 2012 6 comments

Qutub Minar and Smith’s Folly

An Architectural Disaster

Smith's Folly, with Qutub Minar in the background

Smith’s Folly, with Qutub Minar in the background

It is said that lightning never strikes a place twice, but tall structure like the Qutub Minar have always been exceptions. There are several records of the tower being struck by lightning and other natural calamities have taken its toll on the highest stone tower in the world. But the string of disaster has left the minar unscathed except for a slight tilt, some two feet of the perpendicular.

The first recorded lightning strike on the Qutub Minar happened in 1368, when a lightning strike severely damaged the top storey of the Qutub Minar. Sultan Firoz Shah Tughluq replaced the fallen storey with with two floors and crowned it with a cupola. The restoration also introduced white marble into the otherwise red and buff sandstone.

Sikandar Lodi also carried out some repairs on the Qutub Minar in 1503 but the nature and extent of damage is not recorded.

The next major damage happed during the earthquake of 1803. Although much lesser in magnitude than the 1368 lightning the damage was significant enough to destroy Firoz Shah’s cupola permanently.

Read more…

Srinagar ~ Mughal Gardens

“The concept of paradise as a garden is one of mankind’s oldest ideas.The paradise promoised in the Quran consists of several terraces of gardens, each more splendid than the other.”

World Heritage Series, Humayun’s Tomb

“Inheriting the Greek love of order and logic, Islamic gardens – like their buildings – are regimented into lines of perfect symmetry; balance and design is all; nothing is left to impulse or chance.”

William Dalrymple, City of Djinns

Babar, the first of the great Mughals, introduced into India the Timurid – Persian scheme of a walled – in – garden, subdivided into four quaters by raised walkways and canals. As the Mughal empire spreads its wings into India the Mughal gardens started coming up in different parts of the country.

Obviously Kashmir, the paradise on earth, was the ideal place to built the mughal gardens, the paradise promised by the holy Quran. It was fourth Mughal ruler Jehangir, who took up the initiative of building of first Mughal Gardens of Kashmir.

Sirnagar, the present capital of the state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), houses three spectacular Mughal Gardens, complete with raised walkways water channels lined with fountains. Mughal Gardens of Srinagar are a prime attraction for tourist and locals alike.

Cheshma Shahi

Royal Spring

Cheshma Shahi (Mughal Garden), Srinagar, J&K

Cheshma Shahi (Mughal Garden), Srinagar, J&K

Cheshma Shahi, the smallest but most elegantof the Mughal Gardens of Srinagar, was built by the governor Ali Mardan Khan, under the patronage of Emperor Shah Jahan in 1632 – 33. Cheshma Shahi (or Royal Spring) derives its name from a water source, a spring located at the uper most terrace of the Cheshma Sahi Garden. The water of the spring is said to posses some curative properties, especially for stomach ailments.

The triple terraced Cheshma Shahi garden is strategically located and offers great view of the Dal Lake and the adjacent Jhelum Valley of Srinagar.

Shalimar Bagh

Abode of Love

Central Pavilion, Shalimar Bagh, Srinagar, J&K

Central Pavilion, Shalimar Bagh, Srinagar, J&K

The most spectacular of the Srinagar’s Mughal gardens, the Shalimar Bagh was constructed by emperor Jehangir for his beloved wife Nur Jahan. Shailmar (abode of love) Bagh follows the three terraced Mughal Garden layout with  a dimension of 587m by 251m.The first terrace housed the public garden, the second the emperor’s garden and the third and final terrace housed the zenana (harem). The Shalimar Bagh also served as a royal court, during the summer months, and houses the Diwani Amm (public audience hall) and the Diwani Khass (private audience hall).

The Shalimar Bagh is built on a flat land with four radiating arms from a central water source. The water channels are lined with fountains and are marked on both sides by chinar trees.

Nishat Bagh

Garden of Bliss

Nishant Bagh, Srinagar

Nishat Bagh, Srinagar

Nishat Bagh (Garden of the Bliss) is the largest of the Srinagar’s Mughal Gardens. Built in 1633 by Asaf Khan, the brother of Nur Jahan the garden is not a royal garden. As Nishat Bagh is not a royal garden, its hierarchical than the other Mughal Gardens of Srinagar. Nishat Bagh has twelve terraces, each representing a zodiac.  The terrace begins from the public street level, which connects the garden’s water to Dal  Lake. The twelfth terrace is located in the zenana gardens.

A central water stream, nearly 4 meters wide and 20 centimeters deep, flows down from the top of the garden through a channel decorated with fountains and occasionally divided into fountain pools. Chadars, stone ramps engraved with wave patterns to render the flowing water more beautiful, transfer water between the various terraces. In several places, stone benches cross the axial water stream near a chadar, and serve as seating platforms for the visitor’s enjoyment.

Nishat Bagh creats a striking contrast with the Dal Lake in the foreground and the towering Zabarwan Hills in the background.

Related links from my personal website:

Other blog entries on Jammu & Kashmir (J&K)

Chandannagar ~ A slice of France

March 14, 2012 5 comments

About 100 years after Vasco da Gama landed in the west cost of India the European traders started making inroads into Bengal. Bandel became a stronghold of the Portuguese while the Danes and the Dutch had their supremacy in Srerampur and Chuchura respectively.

Chandannagor was the French colony. Unlike the other European colonies of Bengal the French control of Chandannagar continued even after independence and it was only in 1950 Chandannagar became a part of India.

Once a beautiful town with French masons and boulevards, Chandannagar has lost most of its past glory. Today it represents a crowded unplanned town on the Howrah – Burdwan main line. A few of the French buildings have passed the test of time and can still be seen today reminding one of the French days of Chandannagar, offering a French holiday with a distinctive Bengali twist.

Left: Dupleix Palace (now museum), Right: French Fort (now court)

Left: Dupleix Palace (now museum), Right: French Fort (now court)

The largest concentration of colonial building is along the Hooghly and is known as The Strand, and is still considered as the most beautiful stretch along the entire Hooghly.

Sacred Heart Church, Chandannagar

Sacred Heart Church, Chandannagar

Just off The Strand is the Sacred Heart Church, on of the prime attraction of Chandannagar. A statue of Jesus greats the visitors to the two storied church complete with twin towers. A marble plaque says that the church was inaugurated by Father Goethals on 27 January 1884.

Interior has beautiful stained glasses and walls contain coloured reliefs of Jesus carrying the cross. Long corridors and confession boxes add a dignity to the church interior. Sadly the church is not well maintained with plasters peeling off at several places.

Stained Glass, Sacred Heart Church, Chandannagar

Stained Glass, Sacred Heart Church, Chandannagar

The Chandnnagar Strand is dominated by the Durgacharan Rakshit Ghat. Built in 1920s in honor of Durgacharan Rakshit, the recipient of the French award of Legion d’honneur. The elegant looking pavilion consists of slender columns with decorative stucco works consisting of elephant’s head and floral design.

Left: Durgacharan Rakshit Ghat, Chandannagar Right: Details of stucco work

Left: Durgacharan Rakshit Ghat, Chandannagar Right: Details of stucco work

Chandannagar Gate

Chandannagar Gate

Also along the river lies the Duplex’s Mansion, now the Chandannagar Museum & Institute, housing a rare collection of French artifacts, including personal collection of Duplex, the French Governor of Chandannagar.

Just in front of the museum is an elegant mansion called the Patal Bari (Underground House) as a portion of the house is submerged by the Hooghly River. The Patal Bari, with is beautiful wooden sunshades and decorative water outlets, has a long list of distinguished visitors including Rabindranath Tagore & Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar.

Nandadulal Temple, Chandannagar

Nandadulal Temple, Chandannagar

The northern and southern entry point to Chandannagar is marked is marked with two entry gates. The northern gate no longer exists but the southern gate, although encroached by banners and festoons can still be seen today. The gate consists of two square pillars topped with urns. Inaguarated on 14 July 1937, in memory of the fall of Bastille, which tiggered off the famous French Revolution. The gate contains the slogan of French Revolution “Liberte, Egalite & Fratarnite” which translated into English is “Liberty, Equality & Fraternity.”

Buroshivtala Terracotta Temple

Buroshivtala Terracotta Temple

Although a French Colony for 275 years (1678 – 1950). The heritage of Chandannagar is not restricted to French architecture only. The town also houses several temples, including Nandadulal Temple. Standing on a rectangular base of 52 feet by 21 feet it is the largest do – chala (double sloped roof) temple of Bengal. Sadly apart from a few lotus motifs it totally lacks terracotta work, which is the trade mark of Hooghly Temples.

Hooghly is famous for its terracotta temples, and Chandannagar is no exception so terracotta enthusiasts shouldn’t be disheartened as the Boro Shvtala area of Chandannagar houses a spectacular nine pinnacled terracotta temple.

The temple has triple arch entrance of two sides along with intricate terracotta panels. The two side entrances of the triple arched entrance on both side are false and only the central arch entrance operates. The temple also houses a giant Shiva – Linga.

Reference:

  • Hooghly Jelar Purakirti by Narendranath Bhattacharya

Links from my website:

List of my Blog entry on West Bengal

JOYPUR ~ Terracotta beyond Bishnupur

February 29, 2012 2 comments

Stone has always been in short supply in the vast flood plains of Bengal. Hence the architects had to restore to other substitute. As clay was easily available the burnt clay bricks soon became a good substitute of stone. This gave rise to a new form of temple architecture and lead to the construction of elaborately decorated terracotta temples. The terracotta art reached its pinnacle under the patronage of the Malla Kings of Bishnupur during the seventeenth century. The temples are still there turning Bishnupur into one of the most favored tourist spot in West Bengal.

Located just 15 km east of Bishnupur the non – descriptive village of Joypur houses some of the finest specimen of terracotta art. It was during the 18 – 19th century few families of the village took advantage of the cloth trade with the British and made a fortune. They acquired land and became zamindars and built fantastic temples. De and Dutta family were two such families and they still have a temple standing in the courtyard of their decapitated family mansion.

Both the temples are built in naba ratna (nine pinnacles) style and are approached by a triple arched entrance from the Northern and Eastern side. Sadly the temples are in bad shape and are in desperate need of professional restoration.

Triple Arch Panel, Damodar Temple, Duttapara, Joypur

Triple Arch Panel, Damodar Temple, Duttapara, Joypur

The Damodar Temple of Dutta family has elaborate terracotta on the Eastern arch panel. The central arch panels have scenes from Krishnalila while those on the left and right contain battle scenes from Mahabharata and Ramayana. The uniqueness of the Joypur terracotta is its deep relief giving an almost three dimensional effect to most of the figure. The set of musicians on the cornice are in full three dimension. The temple also contains panels of das avatar, Vishnu in anantasaya and Bishma in sarasaya (bed of arrows).

Terracotta Panels from Vishnu Temple, Depara, Joypur

Terracotta Panels from Vishnu Temple, Depara, Joypur

Located a short distance away is the Vishnu Temple belonging to the De family and follows the same pattern of Naba Ratna architecture. The arch panel shows a series of boats some with armed guards and other with noble men and ladies, including a scene where a noble man smokes a hookah carried by an attendant in different boat.

Another arch panel shows two fantastic jumping lions embedded on a floral motif complete with birds and flowers. Just above the lions is a fantastic panel showing Ram and Sita enthroned attended my monkeys and musicians. A little away from the De family temple is a spectacular octagonal Rash Manch crowned with nine onion shaped pinnacles.

So next time when you are in Bishnupur to enjoy do take a couple of hours break to visit the spectacular temples of Joypur, but don’t be late because centuries of neglect can soon turn the temples to dust.

Reference:

Related links from my Personal Website:

  • Travel article on Joypur (Link not yet ready)

List of my Blog entry on West Bengal

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,058 other followers