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, March 27, 2012

Tughluqabad (1323 A.D.) - The Legacy of Delhi Vol 5

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

The city of Tughluqabad was the fourth city of Delhi. Emperor Ghiyath ud Din Tughluq (also known as Ghazi Malik) (cor. 1320-25) built this fortified city which had battered walls of grey rubble and was perched upon a desolate hill from where its position gave it a natural advantage against opposing armies. The city of Tughluqabad was raised as a military stronghold rather than an architectural marvel. The large size and the visible solidity and strength give this fort an air of stern and massive grandeur.

Physical Map of Delhi depicting the location of Tughluqabad

Legend -
                  Ghiyath ud din Tughluq (better known as General Ghazi Malik, during the rule of Khilji dynasty) was a vassal of the Khilji rulers of Delhi, India. Once while on a walk with his Khilji master Ala ud din Khilji, a lady who was passing by suggested that the king build a fort on a hillock in the southern portion of Delhi. The king jokingly told Ghazi Malik (Ghiyath ud din Tughluq) to build the fort himself when he was the king.



 The causeway leading to the South Gate (the current entrance to the fort)

The region of the city which housed the palaces


History -
                  Ghiyath ud din Tughlaq (Ghazi Malik) (1320-25) after ascending the throne selected this site as his capital for strategic reasons. He himself had fought large Mongol armies and warded off Mongol invasions and so, was aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Keeping this in mind he got constructed, during A.D. 1321-23, a massive fort for his capital city which stood high on a scarred outcrop of a rocky hill.

A view of the wall and the bastions from the top of the battlements

These high walls in this section of the city enclosed the 'Citadel'

Architecture -
                             The fort is is roughly octagonal in plan. The fortifications are 6.5 kms long and the 10 to 15 meters high rubble-built walls are provided with bastions and gates at intervals. The rampart walls are pierced with loop holes and are crowned with a line of rude battlements of solid stone which are also provided with loop holes. Presently the fort has thirteen gates (out of the 52 which were said to be there when it was built) and there are three inner gates to the citadel.

A bastion of the fort wall, as visible from the outside

The site map of Tughluqabad shown at the entrance to the fort.


Tughlaqabad was chiefly divided into three portions(See the site map above). To the east , a rectangular area with high walls and bastions served as the citadel. A wider area immediately to its west similarly bounded by rubble walls and bastions, housed the palaces. Beyond this to the north lay the city. The houses of the city are in ruins but some streets of that city are traceable even now. They ran in a grid pattern from gates on one side to those on the opposite side. Inside the citadel-enclosure is a tower known as Vijay Mandal (Victory Tower) and remains of several halls including a long underground passage. The fort also contained seven tanks amidst ruins of several large buildings. To the south of the fort outside was a large reservoir created by erecting bunds between hills.

A causeway connects the fort to the tomb of Ghiyath ud din Tughluq while a wide embankment near its south eastern corner gave access to the fortress of Adilabad. Ghiyath ud din also built a road (now known as Mehrauli Badarpur Road) which connected the new city to the Grand Trunk Road.

 The Adilabad fort (built by Ghiyath ud din's son Muhammad ) as seen from the battlements of the Tughluqabad fort


The Curse -
                         Ghiyath ud din Tughluq, who was genarally perceived as a liberal ruler, was very passionate about building this city of his, because of which, he gave a decree according to which all the labourers in Delhi had to come to work for the construction of the city. As a result the baoli(well) which was being constructed  by revered saint Hazrat Nizam ud din Auliya got stopped mid-way. The confrontation raised tensions to such a level that the saint uttered a curse saying that the city which was being built would 'either become barren or only remain occupied by herdsmen'.

Decline -
                  The son and successor of Ghiyath ud din, Muhammad bin Tughluq decided to shift the capital out of Tughluqabad to Daulatabad in Central India for he felt that he would be able to rule better from there. There was also said to be a problem of water shortage which contributed to his decision of shifting out the capital out of Tughluqabad.

People might have moved out of the fort and the place might have lost its status as a capital city but it's massive walls stand as a testament to the dream of Ghiyath ud din Tughluq (who took the advice of a common passerby seriously and built this city) and the efficiency of their architects in constructing an impenetrable fort. This city also stands testament to the curse of Hazrat Nizam ud din Auliya who cursed that this city would be abandoned (which ultimately did happen).

Important Tourist Information -

Fact - File

Name of the Destination
Tughluqabad (4th city of Delhi)
Constructed By
Emperor Ghiyath ud din Tughluq (also known as Ghazi Malik) of the Tughluq Dynasty
Completed by
1323 A.D.
Location
On the Mehrauli Badarpur Road, New Delhi
How to Reach
The fort is approximately 6 kms/3.72 miles from 'Tughluqabad' Metro Rail Station (on its Violet Line). Take an auto from there. The correct Auto Fare is Rs 45 to 51 (depending on the route you take) as per the government issued fare chart.
Entrance Fee
. For the Citizens of India and visitors from Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Maldives, Afghanistan, Thailand and Myanmar - Rs. 5 per head
. Visitors from other countries -
US $ 2 or Indian Rs. 100/- per head
. (Free entry for children up to 15 years)
                  
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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Siri Fort - A Symbol of Strength and Barbarism

The Black and White Thursday photos of the week which I am posting today depicts the Siri Fort (The third of the seven cities to be built in the area of New Delhi) which was the seat of the Delhi Sultanate of Ala ud din Khilji and his Khilji dynasty. The word Siri is derived from the Hindi word Sir (Head). Read on to know how the fort earned its name 'Siri Fort'. It was built around 1303 AD keeping the strengths of the strong Mongol Army and their repeated invasions of India in mind. It was the first fort in India to be constructed entirely by Muslims. The structure of the fort was in an oval shape and was modeled over the large Turkish forts.

 Severed heads of thousands of Mongol prisoners were hung from these walls to serve a reminder to the Mongols as to what would happen to them if they invaded India again ! 
Observe the protected passageway between the walls (to the left) for movement of the soldiers during action and the gaps in the wall for archers to shoot down at the invading armies

Targhi, a Mongol ruler besieged the Siri Fort following Khilji's retreat during the Mongol invasion of India. The siege was not successful and Targhi retreated to his Kingdom in Central Asia (Afghanistan). In the next Mongol attack which Khilji repulsed with the help of his Generals Ghazi Malik and Malik Kafur the captured soldiers were brought to Siri and trampled upon by elephants and their severed heads were hung from the walls of the Siri Fort (this is the incident from where the name Siri origins)

The only other portion of the rampart of the fort which stands intact revealing the height of the walls. The Siri Fort had seven gates to enter and exit.

The strong fort got reduced to its current ruinous state because of local rulers especially Sher Shah Suri in around (1540-1545) took away building materials to built his own city nearby.

A view from atop the battlements. The ruins of the fort are spread over 1.7 square kms or 0.7 sq miles

(Black and White Thursdays are a series which is not only meant to highlight the beauty of the human civilization but also to provoke thought amongst readers.. The thought being 'WHY' is this place or monument so magnificent ? How much work might have gone into creating it ? What has that place or monument gone through in all this time ? It is somewhere in questions like these that we find the true reasons which make these destinations wonderful. As I say all the time, 'Every destination, every monument, every artifact, every stone has got a story to tell'. Whether we listen to it or not makes the difference.)

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Siri (Darul Khilafat) (1303 A.D.) - The Legacy of Delhi Vol 4

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

When I was in school, me and my father often used to discuss about the various capital cities of Delhi. The capital city which always used to attract my attention was the one from whose ramparts 8000 severed heads of Mongol warriors were hung in demonstration to remind the Mongol invaders about the consequences of attacking and pillaging India. The name of that city was Siri (Sir means 'Head' in Hindi).

Physical Map of Delhi depicting the location of Siri

History -
                        The time period when the Mamluk (Slave) dynasty came to an end and the Khilji dynasty took over coincided with the invasions, by the barbarian Mongol invaders, of North India. Delhi too had to bear the brunt of pillaging and looting which ultimately convinced Emperor Ala ud din Khilji to build a new and secure capital for the empire. This he did with the help of Seljuq craftsmen who were from Turkey. They built a new, strong and efficient fort which mirrored the massive Turkish forts of those times.

Observe the battered walls of the fort and the protected passageway between the walls (to the left) for movement of the soldiers during action and the gaps in the wall for archers to shoot down at the invading armies


The 'Moat' of the fort of Siri

A small bridge which served as the crossing point of the moat.

Legend of Siri -
                                         Targhi, a Mongol ruler besieged the Siri Fort following Khilji's retreat during the Mongol invasion of India in 1299 A.D. (The construction of the city had not yet completed then). The siege was not successful and Targhi retreated to his Kingdom in Central Asia (Afghanistan). In the next Mongol attack which Khilji repulsed with the help of his Generals, Ghazi Malik and Malik Kafur, the captured generals and soldiers were brought to Siri. The generals were trampled upon by elephants and the severed heads of the soldiers were hung from the walls of the Siri Fort (this is the incident from where the name Siri origins)

Sultan Ala ud Din Khilji (the emperor who commissioned the building of the city of Siri)
Picture sourced from Wikipedia

Architecture - 
                                 There are very few records about the layout of the city and the fortifications of Siri but Timurlane who had invaded India in the year 11398 A.D. left an account of the city in his memoirs. He said - ' The Siri is a round city. Its buildings are lofty. They are surrounded by fortifications built of stone and brick, and they are very strong.'   
                                 According to experts the city was built with an oval plan with palaces and other structures. There were seven gates for entry and exit (Only the Southeastern gate exists today). The name of only one gate, the Baghdadi Gate, is known to us. The palace of a thousand pillars, Hazar Sutan (which was a great work of craftsmanship of that time), was built outside the fort limits, and had marble floors and other stone decoration. Its door was supposed to have been beautifully decorated. In eastern part of the ruins of Siri there are remnants of flame shaped battlements, loop holes for arrows, and bastions, which were considered unique new additions of that period of time in India.
 
A view from the top of the remains of the battlements

 The walls of the fort were broad at the base as this picture shows
                           
Decline -
                  The decline of this capital city began when the Tughlaq dynasty (which succeeded the Khilji dynasty) shifted their capital seven kilometers south-east to Tughlaqabad. The destruction of the structures of the Fort is attributed to the local rulers who removed the fort's stones, bricks and other artifacts for their own buildings. Especially, Sher Shah Suri, of Pashtun Afghan descent from Bengal (East India), took away materials from Siri to build his own city (Shergarh).

A newly excavated portion of the wall.

The walls of Siri might have been vandalized, the monuments of this city might have vanished but the legend and strength of this city and the dominance of its ruler (Ala ud din Khilji) which struck fear in the hearts of the Mongol invaders lives on..


The No-Nonsense Travel Advice
Name of the City
Siri (Darul Khilafat)
Constructed By
Emperor Ala ud din Khilji (Khilji Dynasty)
Year of Completion
1303 A.D.
Location
On August Kranti Marg (near Siri Fort Auditorium), New Delhi
How to Reach
Take an Auto Rickshaw or Cab from your hotel or take the convenient Delhi Metro Rail.
. If you take the Metro, get down at Hauz Khas Metro Station (on the Yellow Line) and come out of Gate No. 3. Ask anyone directions to the Siri Fort Auditorium as the Siri Fort ruins are close by. (Come out of the gate no 3 and walk towards the fly-over on the main road, take two left turns and keep walking. You will spot the ruins from across the road. Cross Safely!) The distance is approximately 1.5 kms or 0.9 miles so you can walk till there.
. Correct auto fare from the metro station to the destination is Rs 20 but most (not all) Delhi auto rickshaw drivers are normally more comfortable in fleecing tourists rather than serve them.
. Delhi Tourism run Hop On Hop Off buses do not go to this location
Entrance Fee
Zilch!

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Statue of Lord Shiva from Kingdom of Vijaynagar (16th Century)

After a short sabbatical I am returning with my popular series of Black and White Thursdays, thanks to positive reactions from my readers. Black and White Thursdays are a series which is not only meant to highlight the beauty of the human civilization but also to provoke thought amongst readers.. The thought being 'WHY' is this place or monument so magnificent ? How much work might have gone into creating it ? What has that place or monument gone through in all this time ? It is somewhere in questions like these that we find the true reasons which make these destinations wonderful. As I say all the time, 'Every destination, every monument, every artifact, every stone has got a story to tell'. Whether we listen to it or not makes the difference. 

This Black and White Thursday I am presenting a unique and skillful work of craftsmanship from the erstwhile Kingdom of Vijayanagar (1336-1636 AD) which was located in South India. The Kingdom of Vijayanagar was one of the most powerful and wealthy in Indian History. Their rulers were known to promote arts and craftsmanship like no other rulers of their times. I am presenting a statue of Shiva (in his angry avatar) which was sculpted by an unknown sculptor more than 500 years ago in the 16th century.

Lord Shiva in his form of terror (Rudra roop)

Observe the arch over the deity's head, the crown on his head, The sword in his hand and the ornaments which the Lord is wearing. Also do observe the carving of a worshiper with palms joined in fear (the face of whom has been defaced). What is valuable about this statue is not only the expert craftsmanship and vision of the sculptor which went into creating this marvel but also the fact that it survived numerous invasions and attempts to be vandalized. The city of Vijaynagar was razed to the ground by Deccan sultans in 1565 after the battle of Talikota, but this statue stands witness to the grandeur and splendour of those days.

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Qutb Minar

The Black and White Thursday photos of the week which I am posting today shows the Qutb Minar which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in New Delhi, India. The Qutb Minar was constructed with red sandstone and marble, and is the tallest minaret in India, with a height of 72.5 meters (237.8 ft), contains 379 stairs to reach the top, and the diameter of base is 14.3 meters whereas the last store is of 2.7 meters. The Construction was commenced by Qutb-ud-din Aibak in 1192 and completed by Iltutmish. The Qutub Minar is notable for being one of the earliest and most prominent examples of Indo-Islamic architecture. It is surrounded by several other ancient and medieval structures and ruins, collectively known as Qutub complex.


Qutb Minar, picture taken from amongst the ruins of Quwwat ul Islam mosque extended by Iltutmish. 

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Rumtek Monastery - Seat of the Karmapa

The Black and White Thursday photos of the week which I am posting today shows the Rumtek Monastery also known as the Dharmachakra Centre. It is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery located in the Indian state of Sikkim, 24kms from the capital Gangtok and at an altitude of about 1500metres above sea level. Originally built by the 9th Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje in 16th century, Rumtek served as the main seat of the Karma Kagyu lineage in Sikkim for some time.



The Rumtek Monastery.
The outer walls of the main worship hall have paintings of Guru Padmasambhava in his various forms.

When the 16th Karmapa arrived in Sikkim in 1959, after fleeing Tibet, the monastery was in ruins. Despite being offered other sites, the Karmapa decided to rebuild Rumtek. To him, the site possessed many auspicious qualities and was surrounded by the most favorable attributes. He cited, flowing streams, mountains behind, a snow range in front, and a river below as some factors for establishing his main seat in exile here.

After four years, construction of the monastery was completed (with help from the Chogyal and Indian Government). The sacred items and relics brought out from Tsurphu Monastery, the Karmapa's seat in Tibet, have been  installed here. On Tibetan New Year's Day (Losar) in 1966 the 16th Karmapa officially inaugurated the new seat called, "The Dharmachakra Centre, a place of erudition and spiritual accomplishment, the seat of the glorious Karmapa."

The monastery is currently the largest in Sikkim. It is home to the community of monks and where they perform the sacred rituals and practices of the Karma Kagyu lineage. A large Golden Stupa inside the monastery contains the relics of the 16th Karmapa.

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