Wednesday 29 April 2015

Agra Fort

Agra Fort, also known as the Red Fort, was planned and built to be an impregnable military structure. It is monumental exuding a powerful presence
Amar Singh Gate
However, it has all the elegance, lavishness and majesty of an imperial palace
Lying on the right bank of the Yamuna River, it is literally three kilometres upstream from the Taj Mahal 

Emperor Shah Jahan, who commissioned the Red Fort and built the Taj Mahal was imprisoned here by his son Aurangzeb
There are so many beautiful buildings within the Agra Fort complex that it is best described as being like a small walled city.
 Deewan I am - the Hall of Public Audience
The Emperor sat just below these arches at the back of the ' Deewan I am' on his Peacock Throne holding his durbar
Emperor Shah Jahan holding a durbar in the Public Audience Hall C1650
Across the square from the Hall of Public Audience is 
the Moti Masjid - Pearl Mosque - constructed by Emperor Shah Jahan for members of his royal court. It is closed to visitors
Sitting rather incongruously in front of the Hall of Public Audience is the tomb of John Russell Colvin - British civil servant in India and part of the illustrious Anglo-Indian Colvin family. He died of cholera during the peak of the Indian Rebellion of 1857. His body could not be carried out of the Fort which after the fall of the Mughals, the British establishment in India converted into a military garrison. The tomb reminds me of the work of English architect, Augustus Pugin
A large inner marble square where the royal court lived. The golden tower to the left is where the emperor was held and died
The Emperor had three wives but there were concubines living within the complex too!
One of many open pavilions with ornate and intricate 'jali' screens 
The marble quarters where Emperor Shah Jahan was confined until his death. He was considered one of the great Mughals - his rule has been called the Golden Age
Beautiful white marble work inlaid with semi precious stones which I know as 'Pietra Dura' but is called 'Parchin Kari' in India
When looking from the open pavilions over the river it is possible to view the Taj Mahal lying romantically across the water, and
this is the view that Emperor Shah Jahan would have seen everyday - the tomb of his third and favoured wife 
The Taj Mahal is our next visit

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, form 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
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.

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
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. 
I am discovering that I now appreciate and like orange more!
Jama Masjid Mosque
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