Temple of the Emerald Buddha - Amazing Thailand

This series is based over my reflections upon visiting Thailand.

Shahjahanabad (Const 1648 CE)- The Legacy of Delhi Series (Vol 8)

'Shahjahanabad' is the eighth post in a series of 9 articles on the former capital cities which were built in the historical region of Delhi. Read on to know more..

Hill Fort of Kumbhalgarh, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Know more about this incredible World Heritage Site here..

The Immortal Kumbh Mela - Mahakumbha of 2013

Believed to be the largest congregation of mankind in the world, read my series of posts to know how it feels like to be amongst a magnitude of people

Guru Dongmar Lake, one of the highest in the world

Few destinations have the ability to change your life; Sikkim being one of them. Check out the series 'Sikim Soujourn' to find out why ?

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Qila Rai Pithora (Mehrauli) (1180 A.D.) - The Legacy of Delhi Vol 3

(In this edition of Delhi-iteful Tuesdays I am bringing to you the third part of this historical series The Legacy of Delhi.)

As you drive towards Qutb Minar (in Mehrauli) (from the direction of Saket) a massive wall, which seems as old as time, runs parallel to the road. That wall was a major part of the fortifications of the first city of Delhi (based upon archaeological evidence) built by one of the famous rulers of India Prithviraj Chauhan (Prithviraj III) in the year 1180 A.D.. This was his capital city.. This was Qila Rai Pithora..


The information board at the entrance to the walled portion of the fort.

History - 
                   In the year 736 A.D. King Anangapal Tomar (his name is inscribed on the Iron Pillar of Delhi) founded Lal Kot. The words 'Lal Kot' basically mean 'Red Fort' but it should not be confused with the Lal Qila (Red Fort) built by Emperor Shah Jahan in the year 1648 A.D. Lal Kot was basically a walled citadel or Military Garrison which also served as the capital of the kingdom of Tomars.

Observe the multiple bastions in the walls of the fort.

King Prithviraj Chauhan (Prithviraj III) captured Lal Kot in the year 1180 A.D. and made extensive renovations to the structure and extended the citadel by building massive ramparts around it. It was made into a thirteen gated fort. That city became to be known as Qila Rai Pithora. The Chauhans and the Mamluks (Slave Dynasty) ruled from Qila Rai Pithora and it remained the capital city of the empire of Northern India for over a hundred years.

Another view of the bastions of the fort as dusk sets in.

After Afghan invader Mohammed Ghori defeated Prithviraj Chauhan (Prithviraj III) in the second Battle of Tarain in 1192 A.D. he made his General and slave Qutb ud Din Aibak a 'Naib us Sultanat' in India. After Muhammed Ghauri's death he made himself the ruler of the Kingdom of Mohammed Ghori.


Physical Map of Delhi with the location of Qila Rai Pithora


Architecture -
                              Qutb ud din 'Aibak' (the word 'Aibak' was a title bestowed upon Qutb ud din by Muhammed Ghori. It basically means 'Axis of Faith', in India)  is credited with the construction of Quwwat ul Islam Mosque (The first mosque to be built in Delhi) and the world famous Qutb Minar. Today, the Qutb Minar is one of the most remembered monuments in the city of Qila Rai Pithora. Successive Mamluk rulers continued to rule from this capital city until Sultan Muiz ud din Qaiqabad (1287-1290 A.D.) (Balban's successor and the last ruler of the Mamluk Dynasty).

Quwwat ul Islam (Might of Islam) Mosque. (It is apt that Qutb ud din 'Aibak '(The man who was given the title of Axis of Faith) would construct the 'Might of Islam' mosque in Delhi). The type of architecture used to prepare this mosque is a fusion of Hindu and Islamic architectures chiefly because local Hindu sculptors were used to build this mosque. Pure Islamic architecture was an unknown concept at that time in India.

Life in Qila Rai Pithora - 
                                                             As per the accounts of the city given by Vibudh Shridhar (an accomplished writer of his times) in the year 1189 A.D. he has described 'The fort as immense and surrounded by a moat beside the Ananga lake. The markets were full of commodities like cloth, grain, betel-nuts, sweets etc as well as accounting books. He also implies that Delhi was a center of learning where eloquent language was spoken. The pinnacles of the city gates were gilded with gold and buildings were studded with gems.'
                                                             It is believed that this picture of the city remained intact when the Mamluks (Slave Dynasty) made this city the capital of their kingdom for the next 100 years.

Qutb Minar (A UNESCO World Heritage Site)

Decline -
                  When the Khilji Dynasty came to power in the last decade of the thirteenth century they shifted the capital to the new and well fortified capital city Siri which was approximately six kms away from Qila Rai Pithora in order to defend themselves better from Mongol Invasions.

Today major part of the ruins of Qila Rai Pithora are covered by the forests of 'Sanjay Van' and the 'South Delhi Ridge' while some parts of the city are yet to be excavated. The only visible part of the fortifications of the city can be seen next to the Qutb Golf Course in the Qila Rai Pithora Park. The Qutb Minar which has made the city famous can be seen and reached quite easily though.

The sun might have set over Qila Rai Pithora and its glorious days but its legend lives on.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Iron Pillar of Delhi and Arch of Quwwat ul Islam Mosque

Today the Black and White Thursday photo of the week shows the arch ruin of the Quwwat ul Islam mosque and the Iron Pillar of Delhi.
The Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque (Might of Islam) (also known as the Qutb Mosque or the Great Mosque of Delhi) was built by Qutb-ud-din Aybak, founder of the Mamluk or Slave dynasty and expanded further by other sultans who succeeded him. The arch ruin of the mosque is a part of the mosque complex with the actual mosque standing separately. This arch is a part of the extension which Sultan Iltutmish (the successor of Qutb ud din Aybak) gave to the original mosque built by Qutb ud din Aibak.

Arch Ruin of Quwwat ul Islam Mosque and Iron Pillar on the right

The iron pillar of Delhi, India, (7.21 m (23 ft) high and 14354pounds (6511 kgs) in weight) is located right in front of the arch ruin of Quwwat ul Islam mosque and is is notable for the composition of the metals used in its construction. The pillar, is said to have been fashioned at the time of Chandragupta Vikramaditya (375–413) of the Gupta Empire, though some people give dates as early as 912 BC.

The pillar has attracted the attention of archaeologists and metallurgists and has been called "a testament to the skill of ancient Indian blacksmiths" because of its high resistance to corrosion, due to both the Delhi environment providing alternate wetting and drying conditions, and iron with high phosphorus content conferring protection by the formation of an even layer of crystalline iron hydrogen phosphate.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

SurajKund (Lake of the Sun)

The Black and White Thursday photos of the week which I am posting today shows the ancient Suraj-kund (the word Kund means a lake or a reservoir) (seasonal in nature), located near Delhi (built in the 10th Century by the King Suraj Pal of Tomar Dynasty). It was constructed in the backdrop of the Aravalli hills with an amphitheater shaped embankment. The embankments were later renovated by Feroze Shah Tughlaq of the Tughlaq Dynasty in the 14th Century -




Main steps leading to the reservoir
(The reservoir is seasonal and gets filled only with seasonal monsoon rains)

Amphitheater shaped embankment
(The reservoir is seasonal and gets filled only with seasonal monsoon rains)

With a total surface area of 99 acres the Suraj Kund (Kund means Lake) is a man-made reservoir located (1.2 mi) away to the south west from a more ancient dam of the 8th century called Anagpur Dam. The king Suraj Pal Tomar was a sun worshiper and he had therefore built a Sun temple on its western bank.


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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Indraprastha (1400 B.C.) - The Legacy of Delhi Vol 2

(In this edition of Delhi-iteful Tuesdays I am bringing to you the third part of this historical series The Legacy of Delhi.) 

Around 1400 B.C. there existed besides the banks of the River Yamuna (as per the ancient Indian text or epic 'The Mahabharata') the magnificent city of Indraprastha. It was the capital city of the kingdom of Pandava brothers and ruled by Yudhishthir(the eldest Pandava). It is next to the location of this fabled city that the current city of New Delhi stands.

Legends and Facts -
                                              Although there is not much physical evidence about the city but locals did claim that there existed a huge mound (which could have contained the remains of the city) upon which the Mughals built the Purana Qila or the Old Fort (which was the inner citadel of the city of Dinpanah). Until the year 1913 AD, a village called Indrapat did exist within the fort walls of Purana Qila (Old Fort). Also painted Grey Ware were excavated from this site which dated back to the times of 1500-1000 B.C.

Purana Qila (Old Fort)

Ramparts of Purana Qila (Old Fort ) as seen from its moat.

 Raisina Hill (with the Rashtrapati Bhawan at its backdrop)

There is another theory which suggests that the mound which might have contained the ruins of Indraprastha was not the one upon which the Purana Qila was built but the one upon which the current Rashtrapati Bhawan (Presidential Palace) of India stands. That hill is popularly known as the Raisina Hill. This hill, which could also have been confused with a large mound was visible from the Purana Qila and vice-versa.

Physical Map of Delhi with the location of 'Indraprastha' depicted on it.

History -
                   As per the 'The Mahabharata' the Demon Maya, who was said to be the best architect of his time, built the city and the palace of Indraprastha for the Pandavas after their Uncle King Dhritarashtra partitioned the Kingdom of Hastinapur (which was rightfully Yudhishtir's) into two in order to stem the rivalry between the Pandava brothers (see picture below) and the Kauravas (their cousins). The area for the palace was created by clearing the forests of Khandava by Arjuna and Lord Krishna (his friend and teacher). The palace built by Maya was said to be so magnificent that it invoked the jealousy of Pandavas cousin brother Duryodhana (Kaurava, eldest son of Dhritarashtra).

Here you see the five Pandava princes (heroes of the epic Mahabharata) with their shared wife-in-common Draupadi. The central figure is Yudhishthir. The two to his left are Bhima and Arjuna . Nakula and Sahadeva , the twins, are to his right. Their wife, at far right, is Draupadi .
(Picture by Bob King, sourced from Wikipedia)

 Krishna and Arjuna on the chariot


When Pandavas defeated the Kauravas in the great battle of Kurukshetra, and king Yudhisthir ascended the throne of Hastinapur, his brother Arjuna stayed at Indraprastha, with Lord Krishna, and looked after the borders of the kingdom. Yuyutsu - son of King Dhritarashtra (Kauravas), who switched sides to join the Pandavas right before the battle commenced, was installed as the king of Indraprastha after the battle.

Decline -
                   What happened to the physical remains of the city (if it existed) after the Mahabharata, is not clear as much of the ancient history of India is blurred.

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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sarva Dharam Sthal (Gurudwara Guru Dongmar Sahib)

For this edition of Black and White Thursdays we are going to an extremely revered temple of Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists which is located besides the beautiful Guru Dongmar Lake. This temple is over a thousand years old and was the spot where holy sage Guru Dongmar (Padmasambhava) sat and meditated for a few years. For Sikhs this temple is of utmost significance as Guru Nanak visited it (during his third journey around 1516 AD) to provide support to the Karmapa and Nyingmapa sects who were forced out of Tibet by the Gelugpa sect. His footprints, a water carrying utensils and a robe is preserved in Lachen Gompa (Lachen is the Base town for reaching this destination).


Entrance to the Temple or Gurudwara where Guru Dongmar (Padmasambhava) sat and meditated and where Guru Nanak visited to support the Karmapa and Nyingmapa sects after they were driven out of Tibet by the Gelugpa sects.

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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Guru Dongmar Lake

This Sunday will sees the return of Sikkim Sojourn, my journeys in and notes about Sikkim, India. I resume writing my travelogue over Sikkim from the day when I visited Guru Dongmar Lake. Enjoy the post !

 Guru Dongmar Lake

Location Board besides the lake

Sitting in the SUV and moving forward, we see the greenery melt away before our eyes. Giving way to a brown and barren horizon where the air is cold and thin. As we leave the civilization behind and move through the heart of Himalayas, the silence is palpable. Only the howling wind and the noise of tyre's disturb it. It is in this solitude that we realize our presence in this inhospitable yet fascinating country, and we realize that we are in the realm of Mother Nature.

 Brown Hills with ice caps lay besides the Guru Dongmar Road. These hills are located in such a location that  man has rarely ever walked over them

From the SUV

Brown Barren Horizon

We appreciate that this is a place where man does not toy with the nature but vice-versa. While making every movement, while taking every breath we understand that this is a place which we cannot master, just respect. While moving through the valley where the unpaved GuruDongmar road ran parallel to the heavily mined border with China; I realized that I was at the outermost edge of India
Since ages people have passed through this ancient path. Borders have been drawn and re drawn, but the immortal panorama unfolding before our eyes has remained the same. The conditions kept challenging us just as it challenged everyone before. This land has seen many a travelers walk across its breast to visit the turquoise colored speck of water across its brown horizon and will continue to see people walk across it. It will continue to challenge everyone. If you win you can get a glimpse of serenity, harmony, and through it a glimpse into your inner soul.

Information board about the lake

A shot of the snow laden Khangchengyao Ranges (these ice caps remain under perma-frost*) (*permanent ice cover)

See the reflection of the nearby snow laden Khangchengyao Ranges on the lake's surface

After visiting this jewel of a lake and seeing the snow capped peaks, the quietness of the environment in which we only hear the howling of the winds and our breath we realize why a holy Buddhist sage like Guru Dongmar settled at this place for many years and meditated. A temple stands at the place where he sat. This lake has got an aura of enchantment and observing its beauty will make you completely forget the troubles you faced while getting here.

Entrance to the Temple or Gurudwara where Guru Dongmar sat and meditated and where Guru Nanak visited (during his third journey) to provide support to the Karmapa Nyingmapa sects who were forced out of Tibet by the Gelugpa sect. His footprints, a water carrying utensils and a robe is still preserved in Lachen Gompa (Lachen is the Base town for reaching this destination).

Prayers written on the wall of the Temple in Tibetan script

Before leaving this place Guru Dongmar keeping the wishes of people in mind touched a part of the lake and ensured that it would not freeze during winters. Till date the lake stands testimony to his miracle. It is believed that the water of this lake has medicinal values and people who visit it take some before returning. 

The portion of Guru Dongmar Lake which never freezes even during winters

The No Nonsense Travel Advice
Destination
Guru Dongmar Lake
Location
Sikkim, India
Elevation
5136 mts/17100ft above sea level
When to Visit
Oct-May
Days of Visit
Tours start from Gangtok only on Mondays and Tuesdays
You require
Only Indian citizens can visit after getting a Permit from the Army, as the lake is next to China border
Advice
Altitude Sickness could be a bother
Base Town
Lachen (2750 mts) or Thangu(4267 mts)
 
 Visit the official website of Sikkim Tourism for more information.

Om Mani Padme Hum
.......

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Guru Dongmar Lake - Black and White Thursdays

For this edition of Black and White Thursdays I am presenting you the immortal picture of Guru Dongmar Lake, Sikkim, India. It is the one of the worlds highest lake. This lake is a significant part of Indian religion and history as Buddhist Tantrik guru, Guru Padmasambhava(Dongmar) practiced various rituals besides this lake over 1000 years ago. What makes this lake even more significant is the fact that the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak visited this lake where Guru Padmasambhava prayed.

Guru Dongmar Lake (17100 ft/5136mt above sea level)

This lake is a turquoise colored jewel in the heart of a brown and white landscape which surrounds it. What makes this lake one of the wonders of this world is that it never completely freezes even during peak winters. It is for this reason this lake and this picture which tries to capture its beauty becomes immortal and thus a part of Black and White Thursdays.  

This February will see the introduction of a new series called Sunday Specials which will have travel destinations from across India and around the world.. yes around the world. Delhi-iteful Tuesdays and Sunday Specials will be published alternately each week while Black and White Thursdays will continue as usual. 
This Sunday will see the return of Sikkim Sojourn, my journeys through Sikkim, India and then I am waiting to write about another beautiful destination which is in my library. So, wait for this Sunday Specials which will be over Sikkim. Till then TC

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I have marked this location on my uencounter.me map.