Monday, June 29, 2009

Mughal tombs

Bibi ka Maqbara

Granted the Bibi ka Maqbara  was built by Aurangzeb's son Azam Khan for his mother, rather than as any great monument of love for a spouse, I still find it deliciously ironic that the building attempted to copy the Taj, a monument which Aurangzeb reportedly found distasteful for the amount of money spent (or wasted, as he would have had it) on its construction. 

No building, of course, can even compare to the Taj. 

The Maqbara is but a poor attempt - too narrow, the dome looks rather bulbous as a result, the four outlying pillars are far to blocky and broad. The dome is of marble and marble also decorates the very bottom of the monument, but it's almost as if the makers ran out of funds to overlay the remaining middle in marble (perhaps they did) and painted it a chalk white. It is still an interesting and significant piece of Mughal architecture and would possibly have demanded much greater praise, if it weren't for the parallels it so obviously draws. 

Aurangzeb's grave

Aurangzeb's grave on the other hand is hauntingly simple - still, as Aurangzeb had himself willed, open to the skies. Loath to use treasury funds for the tomb, he asked that no more than 8 rupees be spent on his tomb, the money collected from the sale of the caps he stitched and the Quranic verses he calligraphed. The marble grill was added only in early twentieth century, when Lord Curzon, the then Viceroy, visited and was appalled to see the state of the place. It is still difficult to believe that royalty lies here, let alone the Mughal emperor who ruled India for the longest and at its largest.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Green glass circles

Aurangzeb's Mausoleum Complex, Khuldabad

Friday, June 19, 2009

High heeled bikers

Hanoi is, of course, over run by motorbikes and one large sub segment of those bikers are women, navigating the narrow streets and crazy traffic of the city, perfectly styled and in their high heeled shoes. I am one of those klutzy people who feel out of their depth just trying to walk straight in heels, so imagining someone controlling a bike and navigating one of the craziest cities in the world in them is mind boggling to say the least. Yet everywhere I looked, I saw these women. Absolutely perfectly put together, completely graceful, going about their business in the most no nonsense manner possible. It may be a small thing, but it caused me great amazement and a certain admiration.

Sun and Ruins

Side, Turkey

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Aik Alif

The moast awesome Saieen Zahoor performs Bulleh Shah's Aik Alif with the band Noori. This has been on an unending repeat over the past few days. 

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Tale of Two Hotels

Watson's Hotel (Esplanade Mansions), Kala Ghoda, Bombay

Taj Mahal Hotel, Colaba, Bombay

In 1871, Jamsetji Tata, now known as the pioneer of Indian industry, was allegedly refused entry to Watson's Hotel, at that time the swankiest hotel in the city which allowed entry to whites only. Humiliated by the racist snub, the legend goes, Tata built the Taj Mahal Hotel down the road, so often now referred to as an icon of the city.

A couple of weeks ago the Watson, a 138 year old structure, was declared unsafe and tenants were urged to be evacuated before the onset of the monsoon, the building having slipped further and further into decline since the death of John Watson and the success of the Taj. The building is India's oldest cast iron structure - the frame of the hotel having been shipped from England. This is merely a footnote now - the building today stands out for being the most obviously and outrageously dilapidated one amongst the well preserved colonial architecture of the Kala Ghoda area. 

Last year, the Taj was the site of unmentionable violence and tragedy, and for me personally many, many tears. It is now more fiercely guarded than I ever remember, than it doubtless ever was. In so many ways no longer as welcoming as it used to be - the multiple rounds of security checks just to get in probably aid in keeping out casual wanderers, the interiors are now strangely quiet and sparsely crowded as a result. It is still as gorgeous and imposing from the outside and though I spotted workers carrying out repairs on the roof and in some balconies, a hint that it really isn't invincible, to imagine the waterfront without the twin images of the Gateway and the Taj is just as impossible. The crowds still throng the promenade and along with the gaudily dressed, glittering horse carriages that stand in line in front of the hotel give the whole area a wonderfully festive feel, especially in the balmy evenings with the lights on. I think every once in a while people take a second to just stop and gaze with some awe at the building that overlooks serenely all that frenzy.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A touch of red

Hazy red - Kailasanathtemple, Ellora

Thursday, June 11, 2009

How tiny in comparison

It is impossible to capture the magnificence of the caves and temples at Ajanta and Ellora on camera. The Kailasanath Temple - pictured here - is so stunningly gorgeous, so massive and detailed that one could spend days wandering its compounds marveling at it. 

Carved out of a mound of rock from top to bottom, with a hammer and chisel, mounds and mounds of earth were scooped out as the temple gained a rough form and then finally assumed its embellished, carved state. Carvings from the Mahabharata and Ramayana, the different avataars of Visnu, scenes from the Shiva Purana, Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati, Kali, Durga, Lakshmi, Ganesh, Nandi, even Ravana - they are all here.

I think it's difficult to fathom what is meant when people talk about it being a rock cut temple - the grandiosity of the temple, the intricacy of design, the very feat of building the temple hit you only when you see it. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Seen from the car window

Bombay, India

These two seemed to me to be still following the style of Bollywood films from the 1970's. Styled more like Vijay, than Raj or Rahul, looking more intense and ponderous than flippant. Maybe it's just my imagination. Probably just a trick of the camera and the instant they were photographed. 

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Watching the evening skies

Bombay, India

This picture was taken a couple of hours ago and I have to admit that I absolutely adore it. Off to Aurangabad tomorrow for a couple of days, hoping the heat, which is truly sapping, cools down.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Among the pillars...

... were spotted half hidden couples and lazy dogs.