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Archive for August, 2012

Metropolitan Building ~ Whiteway, Laidlaw and Co. to Big Bazar

August 29, 2012 13 comments

Metropolitan Building, Calcutta (Kolkata)

Whiteway, Laidlaw and Co. to Big Bazar

On the eastern side of Esplanade stands a spectacular building in Baroque style, complete with domes, pediments, balconies & clock tower. Known as the Metropolitan Building it once housed Calcutta’s (Kolkata’s) leading departmental stores run by the famous Whiteway, Laidlaw and Co.

Metropolitan Building, Calcutta (Kolkata)

Metropolitan Building, Calcutta (Kolkata)

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Beyond Bishnupur ~ Brick and Stone Temples

August 22, 2012 11 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.

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Qutub Minar and Smith’s Folly ~ An Architectural Disaster

August 15, 2012 10 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.

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A tribute to David McCutchion

August 8, 2012 8 comments

David McCutchion

12 Aug. 1930 – 12 Jan 1972

David McCutchion' Grave, Bhabanipur Cemetery, Kolkata

David McCutchion’s Grave, Bhabanipur Cemetery, Kolkata

I knew it wont be easy, but when I entered the Bhabanipur Cemetery with my friend and fellow terracotta enthusiast Amitabha Gupta, I understood that it was far more difficult than I have imagined. It was like finding a needle in a bunch of haystack.

We were on the lookout for the grave of David McCutchion, famous for his pioneering work on the terracotta temples of Bengal.  Had David  McCutchion, who had succumbed to an attack of polio in Calcutta at the early age of 41 on January 12, 1972, been alive today, he would have turned 82 on August 12, 2012. Today his mortal remains lies in the Bhawanipur Cemetery in Kolkata.

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Palpara Brick Temple

August 1, 2012 2 comments

The Archeological Survey of India (ASI) website describes it as the Palpara Brick Temple, while the locals call it the Moth Mandir, Kali Mandir or even Shiv Mandir. The seventeenth century temple has long been abundant. It is recently been restored by the ASI and declared as a Monument of National Importance.

Palpara Brick Temple

Palpara Brick Temple

The brick built south facing char – chala temple (four sloped roofs meeting at a pinnacle) stands on a raised plinth and is believed to be built by Gandharba Roy in seventeenth century, although the foundation plaque containing necessary information like name of founder and year of foundation has long been lost. The temple standing on a square base, and crowned with the four sloping roofs, rises to a height of 21 meters.

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