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Amber Fort, Jaipur

Amber fort depicts the glorious heritage of Jaipur, Rajasthan which listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of India. It is one of the main tourist attractions of the pink city, Jaipur. It is located in small town, Amer which is 11kms from Jaipur. It was built by Raja Maan Singh I (one of the nine gems of Akbar’s court) in 1592. It is made up of white and red sandstone marble. The fort is located high on Arawali hills range front facing Maota lake. It is renowned for its architecture, intricate carvings, mirror and stone work on the walls and ceilings. It depicts beauty and blend of both Hindu and Mughal elements.

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Amber fort (Image byYoung Shanahan on Flickr)

LAYOUT

The fort is divided into four main sections each with a courtyard:-

I COURTYARD

Main entry is through the Suraj Pole (Sun Gate) which is the first main courtyard. This gate was provided with guards as it was the main entry into the palace. It was named as sun gate as it faced the eastern direction towards the rising Sun. It leads to Jaleb Chowk which means a place for soldiers to assemble.

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Suraj pole, The sun Gate (Image by Penn State University on Flickr)

A stairway from the Jaleb Chowk leads into the main palace. At the entrance of the palace there is sila devi temple situated which is near to the Ganesh Gate.

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Ganesh Gate (image by Paul on Flickr)

II COURTYARD

The second courtyard consists of  Diwan-i-Aam . It is also known as the Public Audience Hall. It is a beautiful hall stands on two rows of ornamented pillars. Here, the king used to hear about the needs, problems, petitions of the audience.

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Diwan-I-Am (Image by Penn State University on Flickr))

III COURTYARD

The third courtyard is where the private quarters of the king and his family were built as Diwaan-e-khaas. This courtyard is entered through the Ganesh Pol or Ganesh Gate.

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Sheesh Mahal ( Image byJosiane Xavier Parreira on Flickr)

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Interior view of Sheesh Mahal (Image by Ziaur Rahman on Flickr)

The courtyard has two buildings opposite to each other. On the left is Sheesh mahal or mirror palace which is a beautiful part of Amber fort .It is famous for its mirror work. The walls and ceilings of this palace is carved with magnificent paintings of glass work.

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Sukh Niwas (Image by Mark-Averitt on Flickr)

The other building opposite to the Sheesh mahal is Sukh Niwas or Sukh Mahal (Hall of Pleasure). In this mahal, an artificial air conditioned environment was created.

The main attractions in this courtyard consist of:

Palace of Man Singh I 

This palace is situated in the south which is the oldest part of the palace and this palace took 25 years to build which was completed in 1599 during the reign of Raja Man Singh I (1589–1614). It is the main palace.

A pavilion called Baradari

A pavilion called Baradari

Tripolia gate

Tripolia gate denotes three gates. The gate opens in three sides, one from Jaleb Chowk, another to the Man Singh Palace and third one to the Zenana Deorhi on the south.

Lion gate

The Lion gate is the way to the private quarters in the palace premises and is named as ‘Lion Gate’ as it denotes strength.

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Singh Pol, the Lion Gate

Fourth courtyard

The fourth courtyard includes the Zenana region of the palace where queens with their mistress lived. This area consists of many living rooms where queen’s mothers and king’s consorts along with their female attendants used to live.

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Fourth Courtyard (Image by danat3709 on Flickr)

Presently, for a tourist to reach the entrance of the fort, he has to cross the hills either by hiring a jeep and taking an elephant rides also. Amber fort is an incredible and magnificent junction for tourists.

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The Natural Wonders of Kaziranga National Park

The heritage of India lies not only in its grand monuments but also in its natural wealth. Kaziranga National Park is one such place in India that has conserved the natural wonders and beauty of the region. Kaziranga National Park was established in Assam to protect the population of one-horned rhinoceroses. Due to its scenic beauty and the conservation efforts by the government and the authorities, Kaziranga National Park was declared a World Heritage Site in India by UNESCO in 1985. The park covers 430 square kilometers of land occupied by tall grasses, marshland and dense forests.

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Gate No 1 of Kaziranga National Park

Kaziranga National Park is considered a haven for a wide variety of wild flora, fauna and avifauna. This national park holds about two-third of the total world population of the Great Indian one-horned rhinoceroses. Kaziranga is also home to the endangered Wild Asiatic Water Buffalo. It is one of the last homes for these water buffaloes. A total of 15 endangered species of mammals are living in the park.

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One Horned Rhinoceros (Image by Luaia nampui on Flickr)

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Wild Water Buffaloes (Image by Een Ar on Flickr)

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Tiger

Some interesting figures about Kaziranga Park are

No. of species of fishes – 42
No. of species of amphibians – 9
No. of species of reptiles – 27
No. of species of birds – 491
No. of species of mammals – 35

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Elephant safari (Image by Rita Willaert on Flickr)

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Baby Hog Deer (Image by Mark.photos on Flickr)

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White-throated Kingfisher (Image by Vijay Anand Ismavel on Flickr)

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Sunset view (Image by VinayakH’s photostresm on Flickr)

The population of several other wild animals like tigers and elephants is thriving inside the park. Kaziranga has the highest tiger density in a protected area around the world. There are many water bodies all around the park, which are formed by the crisscrossing of Brahmaputra and three other rivers. These water bodies are an important source of food (fishes) for the birds of the park. Kaziranga is considered an important bird area for the conservation of bird population globally. A variety of migratory birds, water birds, predators and scavengers can be seen inside the park.

You can find more about Kaziranga Park here : http://india-wildlife-tour.blogspot.in/2013/10/kaziranga-national-park-home-to.html

 

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The Great Awakening at Mahabodhi Temple

Bodh Gaya is the place where Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree in 530 BC. Bodh Gaya is located in the Bihar state of India and is a popular tourist and religious destination. The Mahabodhi Temple is a Buddhist temple located near the Bodhi tree and is listed as a World Heritage Site in India by UNESCO. Mahabodhi means great awakening, and the area around the tree is called Bodhimanda. It is a Buddhism term which means the position of awakening. The Bodhi tree is the prime attraction inside the temple complex.

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Maha Bodhi Temple (Image by ivesabroad on Flickr)

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Entry Gate (Image by marc_p_1970on Flickr)

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Mahabodhi Temple, BodhGaya

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Image by everytin irie on Flickr

The Mahabodhi Temple was constructed by Emperor Ashoka in 260 BCE. It has gone under many restorations under different reigns. The temple is a great example of earlier brick-work in India. It is one of the earliest brick structures in eastern India that had endured for so long. The temple follows a straight-edged pyramidal design and is a seven storey high structure according to the amalakas occurring at the corners of the sikhara.

Area of Mahabodhi temple

Area of Mahabodhi Temple

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Bodhi Tee (Image by everytin irie on Flickr)

The temple has a central tower that is surrounded by four smaller towers of the same design. The central tower is about 55 metres in height, and the temple covers about 4.8 hectares of land. The Mahabodhi Temple is surrounded by stone railings, which have statues of Hindu Gods and Goddess. The figures of stupas, garudas (eagles) and lotus flowers are also there on the railings. It is one of the most holy Buddhists places in India. The large number of visitors it gets includes tourists and pilgrims from India and around the globe.

 

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Historical Buildings of Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park

Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park is the only World Heritage Site in Gujarat state of India. But it is full of palaces, temples, residential complexes, agricultural structures and water installations such as stepwells and tanks, mosques and tombs. It is located around Champaner, a historical city and extends to the Pavagadh hill-station. This park was given the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. This vast heritage site is spread over 1,329 hectares with an extended 2,812 hectares of the buffer zone. The primary zone is 983.27 hectares wide and has many archaeological and historic sites.

The different categories under which all these buildings fall are

Temples

Kalika Mata Temple is the oldest and most visited temple of this region. It is located on a cliff in between a dense forest near Halol city. This temple contains the images of three Goddesses; central image is of Kalika Mata, Goddess Kali is on the right and Bahucharamata on the left. There is also Sadanandsha Pir of a muslim saint.

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Maha kali temple( Image by Arian Zwegers on Flickr )

Lakulisa temple is the oldest temple atop the Pavagadh hill. It is now in ruins and dates back to the 10th or 11th century. It follows the basic Hindu temple architecture style with key Hindu temple architecture elements like mandapa and an entrance porch.

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Lakulisa Temple

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Lakulisa Temple ( Image by Bipin Gunvantlal Shah on Flickr )

Jain Temples are also an important site to visit. They are categorized into three groups. The Bhavanaderi temples near the Naqqarkhana gate fall under the first group; the second group consists of temples dedicated to the Jain saints Thirthankara Suparsva and Thirthankara Chandraprabha and, the third group contains the Parsvanath temple.

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Jain temple in Pavagadh

 

Mosques

Jami Masjid, also called Jama Masjid of Champaner, is one of the finest mosques in western India. The fine architecture of Jami Masjid is unique amalgam of Hindu and muslim styles of decoration. It is a two-storey structure with multiple halls for prayers, which are supported by 200 pillars. There are some tombs built nearby the mosque building.

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Jami Masjid ( Image by Anshum Mandore on Flickr )

Jami masjid

Jami masjid ( Image by UrvishJ on Flickr )

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Interior Area of Jama Masjid ( Image by Arian Zwegers on Flickr )

Kevada Masjid is famous for its mausoleum and its globe-like domes. The incorporation of nature and environment in the architecture of the mosque is the most interesting thing about this mosque. It is usually not a common practice in Islam to do so.

Kevada Masjid

Kevada Masjid ( Image by Arian zwegers on Flickr )

Nagina Masjid is a large monument built during the same time as that of Kevada Masjid during the 15th century. Nagina means Jewel and thus is also referred to as the Jewel Mosque. It is a two storey high building with a balcony. The mosque was built using white stones. It has domes, elegantly carved minarets and decorative columns and windows. The floral designs are its main attraction.

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Nagina Masjaid ( Image by Arian Zwegers on Flickr )

Lila Gumbaj Ki Masjid is located in the east gate of the historic city in Champaner. It has three entrances on north, south and east directions. The fine designs and colors of the central dome, out of three domes, is its main feature.

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Lila Gumbaj Ki Masjid ( Image by Arian Zwegers on Flickr)

The Bawaman Mosque is named after a saint named Bawaman. It also has three large domes, ablution tanks, arched entrances and a minaret. Huge restoration work has been undertaken by the Archaeological Survey of India to preserve this monument.

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Outside view of the Bawaman’s Mosque

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Interior View of Bawaman’s Mosque

Sahar Ki Masjid, Kamani Masjid, Ek-Minar Ki Masjid and Panch- Mahuda-Ki Masjid are some other mosques inside the vast heritage site of Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park.

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Interior Area of Shar Ki Masjid ( Image by Anshum Mandore on Flickr )

Forts

The Fort of Pavagadh was a Hindu fort built by the kings of Solanki. It is located on the Pavagadh hill. The fort was further fortified by the Khichi Chauhans. After it fell into the hands of Sultan Mahmud Begadah in 1484, it was renamed to Muhammadabad Champaner. There are several religious buildings inside the fort walls that include Lakulisa temple and few other Hindus and Jain temples. There are few named walls like Citadel Walls, City Walls at the Southeast Corner and Walls of fort on top inside the fort.

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Champaner Gates of the Fort Walls

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Gates of the Fort Walls

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Gates of the Fort Walls

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Gates of the Fort Walls

Pavagadh Fort has many gates throughout the fortification. The City Gate has a projecting arch and is in a well-preserved form. The Gate No. 1, the Atak gate is on the west end of the fort and has two gateways. The Budhiya gate (Gate No. 2) is on the western end of the fort. The Gate No. 3, the Sadanshah gate (also called Moti gate) is located in the Machi plateau. It has four gates and is the second line of defence. The third line of defence is the Gate No. 4 that has big bastions and cells in the interior. The Gulan-Bulan gate is the Gate No. 5 and is behind the Sat Manzil. Gate No. 6 or Buland Darwaja is of 13th-century vintage gate built on the hill near Makai Kothar. The Makai gate (Gate No. 7) has an arch on it and bastions flanking it. The last gate is Gate No. 8, the Tara pore gate.

Palaces

Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park has many palaces belonging to different kings. These palaces were built at different time periods. All of them are nearly in ruins now. These palaces along with gardens and pavilions were an important part of the fortification. The Kasbi talao is a square pond with descending steps in the west gate. The ruins of Patai Rawal’s Palace with tank are located to the south-east of the Machi plateau. Kabutarkhana Pavilion is a small structure of bricks and lime plaster located on the north bank of Bada Talao near Khajuri Masjid.

Other Structures

Helical Stepped Well is a step well built with bricks and stone paved steps. It descends in the form of a snake coil.

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Helical Stepwell Champaner ( Image by Victoria S. Lautman )

Sat Manzil was a seven-storey watchtower that was built in 15th century. Now, only four storeys remains as the structure fell into ruins.

Mandvi is a square structure in Champaner’s fort and was used as a separate house for the king’s guests.

Thus, the Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park has a lot to offer to those visitors who are looking for some great architectural masterpieces in India.

Explore other tourist sites in gujarat here: http://travelagencyindia.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/must-visit-destinations-in-gujarat/

 

Legacy of Mughal Era – Tomb of Humayun

The impression of mughal heritage can be seen in the form of the great monuments in north India. Cities like Agra in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi are two such examples of it. While Agra boasts the grandest of grand monuments, the Taj Mahal, Delhi also has many tombs and monument that are worth visiting. Humayun’s Tomb is one such attraction of Delhi that is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and glorifies the mughal architectural style.

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Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi (Photo credit: Een Ar, on flickr)

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Humayun was the second emperor of the mughal empire in the Indian subcontinent. Humayun died in 1556 and his first wife, Bega Begum, commissioned his tomb. She hired a Persian architect named Mirak Mirza Ghiyas as the chief architect for Humayun’s Tomb. The architecture and design of this tomb were unique for that time. It was the first tomb in the Indian subcontinent with a garden, and also the first grand monument made up of red sandstone. The excessive use of red sandstone is one of its prime features. The tomb follows the early mughal architecture that was mostly influenced by Islamic style but also included few Indian designing elements.

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Photo Credit: Ameen Ahmed Tumkur on Flickr

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Inside the main chamber, there is a cenotaph of Humayun’s Tomb while the original grave lies in the basement below it. There are many symbolic elements inside the main chamber like a mihrab design over a marble lattice or jaali that is facing Mecca in the West. Also, there are four main octagonal chambers on two floors. Some of the smaller chambers contain cenotaphs of other mughal family members like Bega Begum, Hamida Begum (wife of Humayun and mother of Akbar), and Dara Shikoh (Humayun’s great-great grandson).

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Path from West gate to Humayun’s Tomb

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There are many big and small monuments around Humayun’s Tomb. Char Bagh (literally four gardens) is a Persian-style four layouts garden, which are subdivided into smaller squares with pathways. Another prominent attraction is the Babar’s Tomb. It is a tomb of the royal barber and is also called Nai-ka-Gumbad. Then, there is Tomb and mosque of Isa Khan that was built before the Humayun’s Tomb. Other smaller buildings include Bu Halima’s Tomb, Afsarwala Tomb and Nila Gumbad. Humayun’s Tomb and many other buildings have gone under restoration to preserve them for the future generations to see.

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Isa Khan Niyazi Tomb

 

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Glimpses of Erotic Sculptures at Khajuraho Group of Monuments

Khajuraho Group of Monuments is located in Madhya Pradesh, India. These groups of monuments are the largest group of medieval Hindu and Jain temples which are basically famous all around the world for their erotic sculptures. The temples were built during the Chandella Dynasty that reached its peak point between 950 and 1050 AD.

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Kandariya Mahadev Temple in Khajuraho Group of Monuments
Image by John Ubinger on flickr.com

Total area of the complex is enclosed by a wall with eight originates and each of them bordered by two golden palm trees. Originally, there were 85 temples but now only 25 temples remain that falls into three distinct groups namely eastern, western & southern and follows Hinduism and Jainism styles. They scattered in an area of over 20 square kms. A perfect balance displays between the architecture and sculpture of the temples.

Sculptures at Khajuraho Temple

One of the many erotic sculptures at Khajuraho Temple
Image by GrandecapoEstiCazzi on flickr.com

The whole complex of Khajuraho illustrates a unique artistic creation, surprising quality, variety of scenes of amusements, sculpted decor of mythological repertory or amusements. All the temples are elegantly decorated on the outside. These temples are world famous for their exceptional art due to which they have been listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

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Devi Jagadambi Temple

Some of the temples like Visvanatha, Parsvanatha and Vaidyanatha belong to the period of King Dhanga, who was the successor of Yasovarman. The Jagadambi, Chitragupta, are the most remarkable among the western group of temples of Khajuraho. Other temples are Vamana, Adinatha, Javari, Chaturbhuj and Duladeo, are the smaller temples but designed elegantly.

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Lakshmana Temple

The Khajuraho group of monuments and temples are esteemed for soaring terraces and functionally effective plans. The sculptural adornments include besides the clan images of parivara, avarana devatas, dikpalas, apsaras and sura-sundaris and all win universal applause for their exquisite, adolescent female forms of enchanting beauty. The apparel and embellishments embrace the winsome elegance and charisma.

Ercotic Sculptures at Khajuraho Temple

Ercotic sculptures of women
Image by east med wanderer on flickr.com

These temples serve as finest example of Indian architecture that have gained popularity mainly due to their precise depiction of sexual life during medieval time period. These erotic sculptures can be easily locate by anyone on Kandariya Mahadev Temple. The sexual art is located outside the temple or even near the deities. It has been said by many people that the erotic art suggests Tantric practices. Many sculptures, i.e. around 10% display the sexual activities between people rather than among deities. The rest of the sculptures depict the everyday life of the people including women putting on makeup, potters, musicians, farmers, etc.

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Sculptures on outside walls of one of the temples

The temple complex also offers an evening light and sound show. The show covers the history, philosophy and the art of sculpting of these temples and so enjoyed by most of the people. Two languages are preferred in the show, i.e. English and Hindi. One can choose according to their comfort and understanding of the language. Thus, nobody forgets any moment spent in Khajuraho temples for their whole life.

 

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The Outlandish Grace of the Brihadeeswarar Temple

Brihadeeswarar Temple is located in the Thanjavur of Tamil Nadu state, India. It is a Hindu temple which is a part of Great Living Chola Temples that are enlisted as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. It was built during the 9th century and completely dedicated to the Shiva. The linga of the temple was brought from the river Narmada and said by many that when it was brought, the water of the river kept increasing day by day and so the name Brihadeeswarar was given to this temple. It is one of the largest temple in India and also most prized one only due to its architectural designs.

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Brihadeeswarar Temple in Tamil Nadu

The temple majestically stands amidst the fortified walls that were added in the 16th century. It has the tower or Vimana of the gopuram which is 216 ft high. This Vimana is among the tallest of its kind in the entire world. The Kalasha of the temple is intricately carved out of a single stone and weighs around 80 tons. A big statue of Nandi is amazingly carved out of a single rock and measures about 16 feet long and 13 feet high. This shows that it is a distinctive example of architecture inside the temple.

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Nandi(Bull)
Image by ashok_sridhar on flickr.com

This glamorous temple is the world’s first fully granite temple. Most of the inscriptions on the walls depict the Bharatanatyam which is a popular classical dance of southern India. One of the interesting parts of this temple is the shadow of the gopuram (pyramidal tower which usually stands over the gateway of the temple) never falls on the ground at noon. This served as a great example of the South Asian style of architecture.

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Inscriptions on the wall
Image by ashok_sridhar on flickr.com

The square sanctuary of the temple is surrounded by a narrow passageway and adjoins an antechamber. The double storey plastered walls of the sanctuary are located on a raised basement. Projections of the wall have niches that occupied by fully model images of Shiva. Some finest figures that intricately carved on the walls of the temple include Bikshatanamurti, dancing Shiva, Harihara and Ardhanarishvara.

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Brihadeeswarar Temple Entrance

Another interesting thing to see is an Archaeological Museum which showcases the ancient ruins. It surely gives you the chance to look back into the history of the Chola Empire. 107 paragraphs long inscription can also found on the walls of the Vimana which reads the contribution of the Chola King Rajaraja and his sister Kundavai.

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Murals and Shiva Lingams in the temple

This popular temple turned 1000 years old on September 2010 and the day was celebrated with great pomp and show. State government celebrated this birthday of the temple with great excitement. Many cultural events were held there during this wonderful occasion. People travel to this place in a large number only to glare or participate in the cultural activities.

On 26th September 2010, which was the fifth day of the millennium celebrations, Indian post released 5 special postage stamps featuring the 216-ft tall giant Raja Gopuram. Also, the Reserve Bank of India commemorated this special event by releasing the 5 coins embossed with the model of the big temple. A 1000 rupee coin was also released to commemorate the same picture as on the Rs. 5 coins. The temple is visited by a large number of pilgrims and tourists from across the globe. It is one of the important heritage sites in Tamil Nadu.

 

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