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Monthly Archives: August 2013

Unconquered Fort of Maharashtra – Murud Janjira

Murud Janjira is a fort located on an island just off the coastal village Mund in Raigad district of Maharashtra. It was constructed by the Siddis of Ahmednagar in the 15th century. The Siddis became independent after the construction of the fort. The location and the support from the locals allowed this fort to remain unconquerable. Thus, Murud Janjira is the only fort along western coast of India that remained impregnable. The Dutch, the Maratha and the English East India Company, all tried to conquer this fort several times but remained unsuccessful. Even though the ravages of wind and tide, the fort is almost unscathed.

Murud Janjira Fort

Murud Janjira Fort by Ishan Manjrekar on flickr.com

Murud Janjira is the strongest marine fort in India. It was completed in 1571. To get to the fort, one has to take a short ferry or boat ride from Murud Ferry Point. The island on which the fort is located is in oval shape and thus, so is the fort. The entrance of the fort faces the Rajapuri jetty near the shore. It also has a back gate that was designed to be used as an escape route into the open sea. The overall fort is now a ruin but the 19 rounded bastions around the fort are pretty much undamaged. The cannons on these bastions are rusting due to lack of maintenance.

Murud Janjira Fort (1)

Murud Janjira Fort Cannons by ranavikas on flickr.com

Murud Janjira Fort, during its prime, was fully independent fort. Palaces, homes for officers, mosque and two big fresh water tanks are some of the many facilities that allowed this fort to remain free. There are carving and images on the walls of the forts depicting lions, elephants, tigers and other creatures. All the major gates inside the fort have Ashok Chakras on them.

Janjira-fort-gate-tiger-elephant

Sculpture of tiger-like beast clasping elephants

Glaring into the horizon from the barricades of this magnificent fort overlooking the sea, one can see many signs of the numerous attacks Murud Janjira withstood. This 400 plus years old fort is a major tourist hotspot in the long list of Maharashtra heritage sites. The appealing beach, murmuring casuarinas, coconut and betel palms along the costal area of Murud add to its attraction. There is also a shrine of Lord Dattatreya located on a hillock near the fort.

 

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Daulatabad Fort – The Abode of Wealth

Forts and palaces are important historical places to see as they hide a great past behind them. Daulatabad Fort is yet another heritage site in Maharashtra that was an important city along the caravan routes. It is located about 16 km northwest of Aurangabad, the city where Bibi Ka Maqbara monument lies. Daulatabad literally means abode of wealth and had changed power through several hands till India got independence.

The place around the fort was once called Deogiri which means ‘the hill of Gods’. The fort located on a cone-shaped hill and is not easily accessible. Bhillamraja of the Yadava dynasty founded this fort in 1187 AD. After the Yadavas, Ala-ud-Din Kalji conquered this fort. Later it became the capital of India for a short period during the reign of Sultan Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq. After Aurangzeb’s death in 1707, this fort passed to the Nizam of Hyderabad.

Daulatabad Fort

Daulatabad Fort by Todd vanGoethem on flickr.com

The main fort is enclosed by thick walls, barbed gates, elevated slide ways and a deep pit. It has a coiled network of clandestine subsurface passages. As it is situated on a high hill and surrounded by a deep pit, so, one can view a large number of crocodiles from there. The outer wall 2.75 miles in circumference and between this and the base of the upper fort are three lines of defiance that makes it a most secured forts. There was no way of conquering this ceremonious fort.

Chand-Minar-Daulatabad-Fort

Chand Minar by arupdutta on flickr.com

Some breathtaking structures inside the fort exhilarate anyone are the Chand Minar, Jama Masjid, Chini Mahal and Royal Palaces. The Chand Minar is a tower of 210 ft height and 70 feet in circumference at the base, and was originally covered with beautiful Persian enameled tiles. It was erected by Ala-ud-din Bahmani in 1445 to commemorate his capture of the fort.

Ram-shaped-cannon-Daulatabad-Fort

Ram-head Shaped Cannon by arupdutta on flickr.com

The Chini Mahal or China Palace is the ruin of a building, even once the old building was beautiful. In that building, Abul Hasan Tana Shah, the last of the Qutb Shahi kings of Golconda, was imprisoned by Aurangzeb in 1687.There is an awesome ram-headed Kila Shikan cannon lies on a stone platform.

 

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History behind the Karla Caves

Karla Caves are one of the ancient caves in Lonavala of Maharashtra that follows the mixed Indian and Buddhists style of rock-carved caves architecture. These caves are some of the largest rock-cut Buddhist shrines in India. These ancient Buddhist shrines were developed during two periods. The first period between 2nd century BC and 2nd century AD and second period between 5th century AD to the 10th century.

Karla-Cave-Hall

Hall inside the Karla Caves

Karla Caves are very famous tourist destination because of their amazing architecture. Inscriptions and Stupas in the caves depict the ancient Buddhist architecture and culture. The early Buddhist school, Mahasamghika, is associated with these caves. Their popularity in this part of the region was wide-spread.

Karla-Caves

Karla Caves by Himanshu Sarpotdar on flickr.com

The main cave consists of a chaitya hall that has 37 octagonal pillars and a base of water jar. The hall has many beautifully decorated sculptures of men, women and animals. The most important feature of this facade is that it is made out of teak wood. The access to the city hall is embellished with a horseshoe-shaped arch. There is an Ashoka pillar at the front side with a closed stone façade and Tirana in between them. There are large windows carved-out on the walls of the caves for lighting purpose.

Karla-Caves-2

Karla Caves by Himanshu Sarpotdar on flickr.com

All around the cave complex, there are many chaityas and viharas. A Vihara is a place where the monks used to stay and meditate in the caves for a long period of time. Some sculptures of elephants dressed up well with metal jewelries placed there.

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2013 in Caves, Maharashtra Heritage Sites

 

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Bibi Ka Maqbara – Deccan’s own Taj Mahal

Historical places are nice to visit as one can get know more about a country’s past. Bibi Ka Maqbara, Deccan’s own Taj Mahal, is one of the historic monuments in Maharashtra that is unique in its own way. It is located in Aurangabad city and was commissioned by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. One of the striking features of Bibi Ka Maqbara is its resemblance with the Taj Mahal in Agra in terms of design. Like Taj Mahal, it was also created in the memory of a Mughal emperor’s wife. It is often called the Dakkhani Taj or the Taj of the Deccan.

Bibi-ka-Maqbara

Prince Azam Shah, son of Aurangzeb, created this memorial in the memory of his mother Dilras Banu Begum. It was completed in a time span of 10 years (1651-1661 AD). Azam Shah wanted to create a tomb as grand as the Taj Mahal which was made by his grandfather Shah Jahan. But, Mughal architecture was in its decline during that period and the budget for the construction was limited by Aurangzeb. The resulting monument thus looks more like a poor or cheap replica of the grand beauty Taj Mahal. Bibi Ka Maqbara is some times called the poor man’s Taj Mahal.

Image source-http://travelagencyindia.wordpress.com/

Bibi Ka Maqbara is one of the prime monuments in Aurangabad. It follows the charbagh (literally meaning four gardens) layout which was a common element in Mughal architecture. The marbles used in the construction of this monument were brought from the mines near Jaipur city, Rajasthan. Similar designs from Taj Mahal can be seen all around this monument. Despite many similarities, the Bibi Ka Maqbara is still a tourist place to look out for. Also, while visiting Bibi Ka Maqbara in Aurangabad city, one can also visit the nearby heritage sites like Ajanta Caves and Ellora Caves.

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2013 in Maharashtra Heritage Sites, Monuments

 

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Reviewing the History of the Gateway of India

The Gateway of India is a well-known monument in the Mumbai city of Maharashtra. It was built during the British Raj in India. Its foundation was laid on 31 March 1911. The Gateway of India looks amazing when looked from a boat or ferry from the Arabian Sea. It was used mostly as an arriving point for British governors and many other prominent people. This was the only structure in earlier times which was used for arriving in Mumbai, by boat. It is sometime referred to as the Taj Mahal of Mumbai. It is a major tourist hotspot in Mumbai. It is a great place to review the history of India during the British rule.

Gateway-of-India

The whole structure was erected to commemorate the landing of their majesties King George V and Queen Mary at Apollo Bunder. The governor of Bombay Sir George Sydenham Clarke laid its foundation on 31 March, 1911 after getting the final design from George Wittet. The foundations of this exquisite structure were completed in 1920 and construction was finished in 1924. The Viceroy, the Earl of Reading opened it on 4 December 1924. This is the structure through which the last British troops left India following the country’s independence and marking the end of British rule on 28 February 1948.

Gateway-of-India-marking

The design of the Gateway of India follows a combination of western and Indian (Hindu and Muslim) architectural design. George Wittet combined the elements of the Roman triumphal arch and the 16th century architecture of Gujarat. Its arch is made of basalt and stands 26 meter tall. The arch is made in Muslim style while the decorations on the arch are in Hindu style. The central dome is 48 feet in diameter and 83 feet high. On each side of the arch, there are large halls that can hold around 600 people. On the right-hand side, the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel lies. Back in the days during British rule, it was the symbol of British Empire’s power and magnificence for those arriving in India for the first time.

Gateway-of-India-from-Sea

Opposite to the gateway, there is a statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj which is the symbol of the Maratha pride in Mumbai. It was unveiled on 26 January 1961 on the occasion of India’s Republic Day. The Gateway of India is also the starting point for tour of the Elephanta Caves. It usually takes a 50-minute boat ride to reach the famous Elephanta Caves.

Shivaji-statue-near-Gateway-of-India

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2013 in Maharashtra Heritage Sites, Monuments

 

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Reliving the British Legacy at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus or in short CST is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Mumbai city of Maharashtra, India. It was formerly known as the Victoria Terminus Station. It was designed by Frederick William Stevens and was built in 1887 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s accession to the throne. It took ten years to complete the entire station. Over three millions of commuters use this station on daily basis making it the busiest railway station in India. It is a great place to relive and explore the imperial legacy of the British rule in India.

Chhatrapati-Shivaji-Terminus

The CST was built initially to be the headquarters of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway which will house its main station and the administrative offices. But, soon a number of ancillary buildings were added afterwards. In 1929, a new station was created to handle the main line traffic. The building of station follows the High Victorian Gothic style of architecture. The fusion of Victorian Italianate Gothic Revival architecture and traditional Indian architecture can be seen all over the station. It has well-proportioned rows of windows and arches.

Ceiling-and-archway-detailing-CST

On the columns at the entrance gate of CST, there are two figures of a lion and a tiger representing Britain and India respectively. The main interiors are lavishly decorated including the ground floor of the North Wing which is known as the Star Chamber, is embellished with Italian marble and polished Indian blue stone. The stone arches are covered with carved umbrage and eerie. All these fine designs and architectural style make CST a fine example of 19th century railway architectural marvels.

Lion-and-Tiger-at-entrance-CST

CST has total 18 platforms in which 7 are for local trains and 11 are for long distance trains. Local trains or sub-urban network trains are very famous in Mumbai. It divides into two suburban lines-the Central line and the Harbour line. On the central line, the train terminates at Kurla, Ghatkopar, Thane, Dombivli, Kalyan, Ambarnath, Badlapur, Kajrat, Khopoli, Asangaon, Titwala and Kasara. While the Harbour line trains terminate at Bandra, Andheri, Mankhurd, Vashi, Belapur and Panvel. This sub-urban network is the only network through which citizens of the state maintain their daily routine activities. Lakhs of local commuters use it daily.

Crowd-Chhatrapati-Shivaji-Terminus

 

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Exploring the Elephanta Caves

Elephant Caves are a network of sculpted caves located on Elephanta Island and dates back to 600 AD. This island is located on an arm of the Arabian Sea and consists of two groups of caves-the first is a large group of five Hindu caves and the second one includes a smaller group of two Buddhist caves. It is 1.5 miles in length with two hills that rise to a height of about 500 feet. It is located about 7 kms from Mumbai’s mainland shore.

Elephant-Statue-Elephanta-Caves

Locally known as Gharapuri, which means the city of caves, it was a worship place for Hindus. When the Portuguese arrived, they named this island Elephanta because of a giant statue of an elephant at the entrance of the caves. This statue now rests in the Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai. There were many paintings inside the caves, but now only their traces remains. In 1987, these caves were given the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site to preserve the artwork and are currently maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India.

Trimurti-Elephanta-Caves

Through ferry or boat, one can reach there in one hour from the Gateway of India. Many visitors visit each year to see the exquisite sculptures of the caves. The cave complex consists of shrines, courtyards, inner cells, grand halls and porticos arranged in the elegant symmetry of Indian rock-cut architecture, and filled with delicate stone sculptures of Hindu Gods and Goddesses.

Nataraja-Sculpture-Elephanta-Caves

At the entrance to the caves, there is the famous Trimurti, the celebrated trinity of Elephanta: there’s Lord Brahma (the Creator), Lord Vishnu (the preserver) and Lord Shiva (the destroyer). Unfortunately, many of the sculptures inside the cave had been damaged by irreverent Portuguese rulers who took potshots at Hindu Gods with their rifles. There are few sculptures that are still in one piece.

Ravana-Sculpture-Elephanta-Caves

These caves are divided into three main parts – the main hall, east wing shrine and the west wing shrine. The main hall contains sculptures related to Ravana lifting Kailash, Shiva-Parvati in Kailash, Ardhanarishvara, Trimurti, Gangadhara, Wedding of Shiva, Lord Shiva slaying Andhaka, Nataraja, Yogishvara and Linga. The east wing shrine have Kartikeya, Matrikas, Ganesha and Dvarapala. The west wing shrine includes Yogishvara and Nataraja.

Shiva-Parvati-Marriage-Elephanta-Caves

The types of caves and the sculptures shows that different dynasties held their sway over this island, namely, the Konkan-Mauryas, Trikutakas, Chalukyas of Badami, Silaharas, Rashtrakutas, Kalyani Chalukyas, Yadavas of Deogiri, the Muslim rulers of Ahmedabad, Marathas and then by the Portuguese.

It is thus a major tourist attraction. For tourists, the caves open from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. and are closed on Monday.

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2013 in Caves, Maharashtra Heritage Sites

 

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