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” !!!


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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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,