Old University – Nalanda Mahavihara

The first and largest Buddhist Monastery built in India is Nalanda, most popularly acknowledged Mahavihara of ancient India located in ancient Magadha kingdom now its Bihar state. It was a learning centre from 7th century and widely known as one of the early universities of India. Students and scholars from China, Korea, Central Asia and Tibet studies in this Mahavihara, where Mahayana, Hirayana, Sanskrit, Vedas and samkhya used to taught. Gautam Buddha delivered lectures in mango grove called as ‘Pavarika’ and Jain Tirthankar Mahavir also stayed here for many years.

The Nalanda was originally was a village and in 5th century emperor Kumargupta I of Gupta Dynasty laid a foundation stone of Mahavihara. During the Gupta period expansions and development including building new temples and monasteries took place by the reigns of his successors till 12th century. During the post Gupta period emperor Purnavarman continues to build pavilion structures in the campus of about 65 acres. By the time Buddhism were deeply rooted in many parts of Asia and Nalanda spread up like banyan tree.

Hieun Tsang also known as Xuanzang was a Chinese Buddhist monk, scholar, translator and traveller who started the first communication between India – China. He took up education in Buddhist studies, Sanskrit, logic and grammar and later on he was expertise to deliver lectures at Nalanda. He carried 657 Buddhist texts, mostly of Mahayana with him while travelling back to China. Most of the texts were translated by him. Around 15 travellers from China and Korea travelled to Nalanda being inspired from him.

I–tsing was another Chinese Buddhist monk. He spent 10 years in Nalanda and translated about 400 Sanskrit texts in Chinese and bought back with him. The disciplinary lessons given by him mostly focus on the practice of the Buddha religion in India, briefing of the traditions, rules, norms and customs followed by monks of Nalanda. He mentioned about the daily schedule of the monks that included an array of rites meant for all starting from the bathing hour to ablution Lord Buddha to perfoming Chaitya Vandana in evening that included chanting of Shlokas and hymns.

These two were considered to be the first foreign students studied in India.

Nalanda was an architectural miracle of that time; today it is in dilapidated condition with some remaining excavated ruins spread over 12 hectares. Remaining of 10 temples, 8 individual compounds, classrooms, meditation halls, parks and residential schools with dormitories can accommodate more than 2,000 teachers and 10,000 students during its prime. Now, students from far off places including China, Japan, Turkey, Persia, Korea, Tibet and Indonesia attend at Mahavihara. According to Tibetan conventional sources, Nalanda houses a big library called ‘Dharmaganja’ (Piety Mart) that encompassed three multi – storey edifices called ‘Ratnaranjaka’ (Jewel – adorned), ‘Ratnadadhi’ (sea of jewels) and ‘Ratnasagaral’ (ocean of jewels). Collections of the library included religious manuscript and texts on medicines, astronomy, astrology, logic and literature.

In 1200 CE. Nalanda faced declination as Muslim Mamluk Dynasty destroyed it. In 19th century Archaeological Survey of India brought light on to it and excavated 6 brick temples, 11 monasteries. Several antiques including inscriptions, coins, sculptures and seals were found. After a visit you will wondered of this UNESCO World Heritage Site for its magnificent scale.

 

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Dreamy Hampi Empire

If you are on a solo trip in search of inspiration, Hampi is the place of peace and filled with air of enthusiasm. Hampi is a tiny village located on the banks of Tungabhadra River and Group of Monuments scattered on broad acres. It is counted as most ancient village and amongst the largest and most prosperous cities of the world during its period of power and vigour. Hapmi remained an integral part of the capital city of Vijayanagar Empire in 13th – 15th century AD. Being located in a strategically favourable position river on one side and hilly terrains surrounding the other. It is a place og bold boulders, carved temples, superior buildings of civil and military, grand stables, high watch towers within the fortification walls.

Krishnadevrai, King of Vijayanagar initiated building up structures from his own residence and Darbar – an official gathering place and later on other structures were added.

We Indians believe that the Lord Shiva is the creator of universe and life. Being patron deity of Hampi, the main temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva i.e. Virupaksha Temple. Highly decorated ‘Gopuram’ – an entrance gateway to the temple is a unique feature of Dravidian style and only seen in South Indian temple complexes. This Dravidian architecture has perfect geometrical plan and section. “Laxmi” is an elephant of VirupakshaTemple, she will bless you for a coin or some fruits.

BadaviLinga is the largest monolithic Linga measuring 3 feet, it is a statue form of Lord Shiva. A water channel is linked to the sanctum of the Linga which always remains submerged in water.

The most beautiful and famous part of Hampi is Vitthala Temple complex. Temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, built in 15th century AD is an architectural gem that consists of wondrously created musical pillared halls, pavilions and other small temples. The most notably the colossal stone chariot which is an iconic.

Lotus Mahal or ChitranginiMahal located in the Zanana Enclosure. This is meant for the queen and other royal ladies to spend quality time. The palace outlooks as one of finest example of Indo – Islamic architecture with the base of typifying Vijayanagar style while upper pyramidal towers depicting Islamic architectural style.

Queen’s Bath is the most private place built for the bath which is highly decorated, most comfortable and advanced techniques were used for water supply. Military buildings were built for storage and trade purposes, storage of weapons, grains, etc. Elephant stable is the most attractive eight compartment structure. The alternate square and hexagonal base dome construction is so superior in large stones and calcium mortar. Pointed arches, domes, symmetrical planning are the impressions of Mughal style.

The number of religious buildings like Achyutraya Temple, Chandramauleshwara Temple, Jain Temple, Krishna Temple, Vitthala and Virupaksha Temple are the major temple complexes. Along the entrances of temples, specific trade structures are avail. There were trades of gold, silver, precious stones – gems, metallic pottery and ladies ornaments. Trade were the major economic source of that time.

Hampi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Karnataka government and UNESCO are collaboratively working on conservation of this 600 acres heritage village. The most visited and lovable tourist destination, 3 – 4 days will not that enough to explore Hampi.

P.S. – New York Times enlisted Hampi as a 2nd  “Must See Global Destination” !!!

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Golden Temple

The ‘Pool of the nectar Immortality’ and this is home to the Harimandir Sahib, the Golden Temple. This sacred pool was used as the meditation place by early puritans and philosophers. Among them Buddha was the first one and much later Guru Nanak in 14th century AD lived here and drew strength from this peaceful site. Guru Nanak believed in equality regardless of caste, gender, religion and from this concept, Sikhism was born.

The foundation stone of the temple was laid in 1588 by the Sufi Saint, Mian Mir. Over time waters were continued within a lake and the temple complex grew around and into it. The Golden Temple itself sits on a platform over the water.

The temple’s architecture is a fusion of Hindu and Muslim styles yet it’s a coevolution of two. During the reign of Maharana Ranjit Singh in 17th century AD Hari Mandir was richly decorated with marble sculptures, golden gilding and number of precious stones. Within the sanctuary, lies the Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred scripture of the Sikhs. This scripture is a volume of devotional poems, prayers and hymns composed by the ten Sikh Gurus and many Muslim and Hindu saints. Beings at sunrise and up to sunset, everyday these hymns are chanted with exquisite flute and drums and string instruments along. It is a delicate but powerful state background for pilgrims strolling around lake. An underground spring feeds the sacred lake and pilgrims immense themselves for cleansing of soul.

Next to the temple complex are colossal dormitories and dining hall facilitating all pilgrims. All who visit the temple are invited to share a meal before they leave. Around 40,000 visitors are fed at Lungar each day out of temple funds. Please do watch episode from ‘Mega Kitchens’ telecasted on National Geographic Channel. The celebrity Chef Vikas Khanna staring in it and the procedure of Lungar at Golden Temple pictured so perfectly. It may inspire you to volunteer at Kitchen and contribute your share, as it did with me.

This is a place of intense of spiritual excitement for Sikhs and indeed anyone who visits from around the world.

 

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First Love – Taj Mahal

Being an Architect and before that, Taj Mahal is the first building that I love the most. Exactly said by famous English poet, Sir Edwin Arnold as, “Not a piece of architecture, as other buildings are, but the proud passion of an Emperor’s love wrought in living stones.” The famous one of the wonders of the world and personification of true love and passion, Emperor Shah Jahan built in memory of his wife Mumtaj Mahal. It is the most beautiful monument built by Mughal emperors and characterise the peak of Mughal architecture.

The Taj Mahal is a part of a highly structured complex consisting of decorative gateway, delightful designed garden, a brilliant water system and a mosque. The complex is to be found on the banks of Yamuna River.   The fundamental focus of the complex is the Tomb structure. It made completely out of white marble and its beauty lies in the symmetry of architecture. The Taj is placed at the raised square platform which is also made of white marble and four minarets at each corner. The union of solids and voids in combination with concave and convex design elements create a breath-taking effect of contrast. The exterior marble changes the colour periodically reflecting the light conditions of the day and produces an astonishing pearly sheer effect at night.

Around 22,000 masons, stonecutters, calligraphers and artisans from over India and Central Asia employed to make Shah Jahan’s dream come true which was designed on paper by Architect Ustad Ahmed Lahori. The fantastic intricate carvings tailored with precious gemstones like, opals, lapis lazuli and jade, offers spectacular flashes of colours against white background. Along with stucco, the calligraphy of verses from Quran and quotes from poems in black marble covers an exterior wall. Murals of herringbone, marble jallis, and geometric patterns of coloured mosaics wrap up the floor. The octagonal chamber is main funerary of Mumtaj and Shah Jahan which are enclosed within a marble screen, which is relatively simple crypt.

The systematic Mughal Garden is a vital part of mausoleum. The raised red sandstone pathways divide garden in four segments. Various trees planted in symmetrical equidistant pattern along central pathway shows cycle of life and death. It is designed in such a way that it offers unobstructed view of Taj from any random point within complex. Others buildings in Taj complex constructed in red sandstone only. The visual balance of white marble of Taj and red sandstone of other structures will amaze astonishing effect. The main entrance gateway or Darwaza-e-Rauza designed in such a way that standing outside the archway one cannot see Taj, but as entering it manifests. The mirror image of each other, the mosque on west and NakkarKhana or guest house on east adds the beauty of Taj.

It inspired me in many ways to work with vision, dedication, perfection and true love!

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Gol Ghumbaz – An Echo

Bijapur, a small town in South India’s Karnataka State but, this historical monument gave a recognizing identity to the town. India’s largest antiquated dome is Gol Ghumbaz. The name finds it roots from Gol Ghummata meaning circular dome. The majestic structure is a mausoleum of Mohammad Adil Shah, the 7th emporer of Mughal Dynasty. A grey basalt structure sits proudly on a big platform and one of the grand royal dome constructed in 16th century. It is widely known as the TAJ MAHAL of South India.

The architecture style of the building is Deccan – Islamic which is a perfect combination of Indo – Islamic and Dravidian architecture. Deccan rulers produced an independent style of their own, largely ignoring the local predominate styles and were primarily influences by the Persian and Mughal architecture styles.

The tomb is a square base hemispherical dome. The dome is second largest in the world and one of the largest single structure chamber in the world, also largest one to cover single space. ( almost 1700 sq. mtr. )

Beautiful petals are carved at its base. staircases at the four corners of the structure leads to seven storey octagonal tower. On each floor, arches opens up and projecting cornices can be seen. A broad eight storey is a space around dome, measuring 3.5 meter. This space is an acoustical marvel, also called as ”whispering gallery”. This amazing echo system reflects the sound for seven times !!! It has been designed in such a way that one can even hear the finest tick – tick of watch across the distance of 37 meters within the vast dome area. And the mastermind behind this design was an architect Yaqut of Dabul…

 

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Until next time,

Preeti

Jewel of Jaipur : Jal Mahal

171107_10150097382814121_7542007_oDSC01769DSC01770DSC01808DSC01811DSC01813DSC01814DSC01793DSC01803For nearly 300 years back, Jaipur’s visionary founder, the great ruler Sawai Jai Singh II built up the festive gathering place for generations of Jaipur’s royal families i.e. The jewel of Jaipur, Jal Mahal.

Jal Mahal which literally means the ‘’water palace’’ is a palace located in the center of the Man Sagar lake in Jaipur city. Jal Mahal is considered as one of the most beautiful architectural palaces that was built with the Mughal and Rajput craftsmanship. The palace provides a charming view of the Man Sagar lake and the Nahargarh hills that border it. The palace’s architectural beauty considered as a best example of combination of Mughal and Rajput architectural styles.

 

I visited this palace on 2nd February 2013. To attend the workshop of restoration and conservation of historical buildings by international expertise. It was hard to imagine that just a few years back the lake was an environmental disaster and palace a derelict ruin. Today, as Jal Mahal rediscovers its magic, it transforms into a pavilion of pleasure once again. It is a 100 acre mixed – use land tourism development project, which is environmentally, sustainable and regenerative. It has been meticulously restored as a part the on going restoration projects.

The complete palace is made of red stone and is 5 storey high. The 4 floors of the palace stay under the water and it is only the 5th floor that is visible. There are 4 chattris on all the four corners of the palace. These are octagonal in shape. The palace has some exquisite marble carvings which denotes the royal touch and the palace has twenty pillars which are the cenotaph of the royal family of Raja Jai Singh II.

For the first time, the Public and private sectors have joined hands to revive a Heritage site in Rajasthan. It provides a requiring environmental revitalisation, historic monument restoration and tourism development. The restoration of Jal mahal started by Jal Mahal resorts Pvt. Ltd. In 2005, has been a phenomenal effort involving the skills of international experts, traditional master craftsmen, architects, historians and authorities on art, culture and design. The research and study of structural elements, forms, details and ornamentation allowed the monument to reveal itself, which then began to rebuild its jetties and stairways, arches, corridors and alcoves with traditional knowledge, materials, techniques and artists.

Chameli Bagh, the lush garden on the terrace has been traced from surviving elements of the original patterns and recreated in the best of Rajput and Mughal traditions. The beauty of the white marble walkways and carved platform, to sit in the shade of tibaris gilded with exquisite miniature paintings or to be refreshed with a stroll through the fragrant garden.

Chameli bagh has been designed by the internationally renowned heritage garden expert and anthropologist, Mitchell Abdul Karim Crites. Built in the traditional charbagh style, each of its four quadrant flaunts a beautiful raised marble flower bed shaped like a scrolling floral arabesque and is planted with a fragrant flowering shrubs.

Water, the other hallmark of such gardens, cascades down thinly over the traditional chinikhana walls of the platform and flows through lotus lights and fountainheads to create a constant changing play of light and glitter.

The central feature of Chameli Bagh is raised octagonal platform with elaborate marble work that lights up to create a dramatic stage for dance and music performances. Under the open sky, the beautifully restored tibaries and even the chattris that stand sentinel over the Jal Mahal, is space to seat an audience of up to 225 guests.

The four different tibaries represents four different styles.

1st is the most opulent tibari at Jal Mahal is resplendent with graceful floral motifs in red, blue and gold.

2nd reveals the magical frescoes depicting Lord Krishna and his consorts romancing in a wooden grove abundant with fruit trees and framed by jaipur’s most celebrated landmarks.

3rd tibari is on process which will feature pink and white decorative stucco.

4th tibari , with its dark clouds swirling across the ceiling, raindrops patterning the walls and lily pools blossoming in the panels, will bring all the colours of monsoon of life.

The interiors of each chattris, located on four corners of Chameli bagh, is designed to be unique. Its is with the rare distinctive Jaipur technique of blue glazed finish pottery. One of created with complex jaipuri brasswork that involves embossing, cutting, enamelling and filigree work and dedicated to Hindu Sun god, Surya.

The conacept and design : Heritage garden expert and anthropologist, Mitchell A K Crites

Creation of Chameli Bagh : Expert marble carver, Kalu Ram Saini.

Tibari and Chhatri Artwork Curation : Eminent Historians Dr. Vibhuti Sachdev

A colourful, multimedia experience that celebrates Jaipur’s artistic heritage, Painted pleasures. Water palace, traditional style gardens, brings together the vision and works of Jaipur’s leading artists and craftspersons to take visitors on an increadible journey of the senses as they have never been on before.

 

Citadel of Orchha – Jahangir Mahal

IMG_5461IMG_5473IMG_5475IMG_5476IMG_5481IMG_5488IMG_5492IMG_5456IMG_5482IMG_5478Orchha is a place of marvelous heritage. This citadel is located in the Tikamgarh district of Madhya Pradesh state, India. The beauty, craftsmanship, location, topography and serenity all are just perfect. Jahangir Mahal is the citadel of Orchha. This was built in 17th century and this structure was built by the regional ruler Vir Singh Deo as a symbol of warm welcome of the Mughal Emporer Jahangir.

Jahangir Mahal is a three storey structure and built on the highest contour of Orchha. The symmetry of facade is just a magnificent treat to eyes. Domes on the four corners of mahal adding the more beauty and were built according to Timurid customs. It’s grand lawns are large enough to accommodate the entry of war elephants. This is the most classical example of Mughal Architecture. I have explored this place in very much hurry as i need to catch up my train from the nearest Railway junction Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh. ( 18km) But next time, I am going to take out plenty of time to explore and to enjoy the light and sound show at night.

Until next time,

Preeti.

Hidden Beauty of Hyderabad

Hyderabad is one of the major metropolis of India with great historical background and architectural touch. This city was founded by Nijam and ruled it for more than century. Architecture of Hyderabad have great influence of Islamic, Persian and Pashtun Architectural styles.

Muhammad Quli Qutub Shah was the Fifth Sultan of the Qutub Shahi dynasty of Golkonda and founded the city of Hyderabad. The architectural miracles in Hyderabad were built by him in 16th century. Central masterpiece – Charminar, Golkonda Fort and many palaces were constructed in his observation. Till today it is standing proudly.

Quli Qutub Shahi Tombs

Sulatn Quli Qutub constructed first tomb in 15th century and later on another 6 tombs were constructed for his son and begum in 16th century. The tombs form a large cluster and stand on a raised platform. The tombs are domed structures built on a square base surrounded by pointed arches, a distinctive style that blends Persian,Pashtun and HIndu forms. The tombs are structures with intricately carved stonework and are surrounded by landscaped gardens.

Now the conservation and restoration of structures is taken care by Aga Khan Trust.

Until next time ,

Preeti

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Indian Temple Architecture

One of the India’s architectural traditions is Hinduism – a religion that focuses on the worship of powerful gods and godesse. It is hardly surprising that diversity of building materials and techniques in India. Temples have always taken an important place in people’s cultural and spiritual life, from the early times and till now a days. Temples were usually built in marked places of special holiness. The legends associated them with the acts of Vishnu, shiva, Durga and other gods.

The main structural elements of the temples were plinth, sanctury and superstructure. The stone base of temple itself symbolises Attar, on which temple itself was sacrifice to  a deity. The temple Architecture is a scientific phenomenon. The basic concept the determines the worthiness of the structure and form of temple is, ”layout of temple is synonymous ( similar ) to the layout of Cosmos.” Technically, the plan called as ”Mandala” or “Vastu pada” with the grid of spaces of equal dimensions.

The distinctive architectural styles of Hindu temples have so developed due to its broad geographical, climate, culture, history and region differences which are specially significant in two major plains North and South of India.

  1. Nagara – North Indian Temple Style
  2. Dravida – South Indian Temple Style.

Following are some photographs of South Indian Temple style or Dravidian style.

Location – Hampi, Karnataka State.

It is a World Heritage Architecture Site by UNESCO.

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Small temple at Hampi

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The piece of land upon which the temple stands is itself a sacred location “Tirtha” and this site selection is only the first step in building a temple. Another important aspect is the “Vastu – Purusha Mandala” that is the rough architectural blueprint for the foundation. It serves both practical and spiritual foundation of temple.

The temples in India are found everywhere varying from small village to metropolitan cities. It not only forms a link between God and Man and a place of worship but also the cradle of knowledge, art, architecture and culture.

The elements of Hindu Temple are, Gopuram ( Southern Style ), Mandala, Garbhagriha, Sikhara.

Gopuram can only be seen in Southern India. it means a entrance gate to the temple. Those are often richly decorated and tapering height.

Garbhagriha is the dark sacred place where statue of God or Godesse is placed. It is often highly ornate and replete with thousands of sculptured images. The simple darkness of the sanctum reflects its function as a “womb house” one of the meaning of Garbhagriha.

Sikhara means the mountain peak. A rising structure over the garbhagriha. It means that deity is at a high than the others and its connection between deity and universal space. Sikharas of North Indian temple style are curvilinear / beehive shaped and in South Indian temple style sikharas are progressively smaller storeys of pavilions.

Following are some photographs of North Indian Temple Style or Nagara Style

Location – Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh state

It is a World Heritage Architecture Site by UNESCO.

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The Hindu Temples has been a subject of study for nemerous historians, architects, archaeologists, art historian, religious scholars, photo – journalist and common people for their interest. The scope for study of temple is not bound only in regions of India but also the form, transformation, building techniques, structural analysis and safety analysis.

Hope this short description of Hindu Temple Architecture was helpful to you and of some interest.

Until next time,

Preeti.