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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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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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A Mausoleum Dedicated to Love – Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal is such a popular monument that almost everyone in the world knows about it. It is located in the Agra city of Uttar Pradesh, India and is a major tourist destination. It is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and an iconic structure of India. Due to its beautiful architecture, it is listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its beauty is unmatched and has never been surpassed by any other building. This timeless monument was built by the Mughal ruler Shah Jahan in the memory of his beloved life Mumtaz Mahal. It is made-up entirely of white marble. Its dazzling architectural beauty is beyond adequate description, particularly at dawn and dusk. It glows more in the light of the full moon and in the foggy morning, it looks pure white structure, which is placed among the clouds.

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The timeless beauty – Taj Mahal

This monument is referred as “elegy in marble”. It is a mausoleum that houses the grave of his beloved queen Mumtaz Mahal. Later, the grave of Shah Jahan was added up to it. This marvel of India took twenty-two years to complete its construction with the help of twenty thousand workers. More than 1,000 elephants were employed in transportation of the construction material. In 1648 C.E. the whole structure completed perfectly. Total cost of 32 Million rupees was used for the construction purpose. The master architect of the mausoleum was Ustad Isa. He was the renowned architect of his time. Expert craftsmen from several places of India like Delhi, Qannauj, Lahore and Multan were employed. Also, renowned Muslim craftsmen from Baghdad, Shiraz and Bukhara worked on specialized tasks to build it perfectly.

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Graves inside Taj Mahal

Interior of Taj Mahal

Interior of Taj Mahal

The monument stands on a raised and a square platform with its four corners truncated that forms an unequal octagon. The architectural design uses the interlocking arabesque concept in which the each element erects on its own and integrates perfectly with the main structure. Its central dome is 58 feet in diameter and 213 feet in height. It is encompassed by four subsidiary domed chambers. The four graceful, slender minarets outside the main chamber are about 162.5 feet high. The entire mausoleum is decorated with veneer design of flowers and calligraphy using precious gems namely agate and jasper. Main archways are chiseled with passages from the holy Quran and the engrossing work of flowery pattern that captivate charm to its beauty.

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Reflection of Taj Mahal in Yamuna River

The Taj Mahal complex is vast and full of several other palatial buildings like mosques, garden, gateway, reflecting pool, etc. Behind the complex, there is the Yamuna River that reflects the beauty of this marvelous wonder throughout the day. Many replicas are modeled on the Taj Mahal like the Taj Mahal of Bangladesh, Bibi Ka Maqbara in Maharashtra, Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City and the Tripoli Shrine Temple in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. But, none of them were able to get even close to the beauty of Taj Mahal.

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Bibi ka Maqbara in Maharashtra
It was created by Azam Shah, son of Aurangzeb and grandson of Shah Jahan, to rival the beauty of Taj Mahal

Thus, the Taj Mahal is the jewel of mixed Indian and Muslim art and architecture as it combines the elements of both Persian and Indian architectural elements. A large number of visitors choose the Taj Mahal tour only to see this white marvel. Some tourists across the globe come to India only to visit this elegy in marble. So, a curiosity to visit this marvel of India only makes the Golden Triangle tour popular in India.

 

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The Deserted Mughal City – Fatehpur Sikri

Fatehpur Sikri is an added attraction among the popular destinations of the Golden triangle circuit tour in northern India. This city lies just outside Agra and is a major tourist attraction while traveling from Jaipur to Agra or visa versa. It was built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar during the second half of the 16th century. Emperor Akbar built many buildings during his empire and his unique architecture renowned even now by the people due to which it is in the list of UNESCO world heritage sites.

Panoramic view of Fahpur Sikri

Panoramic view of Fahpur Sikri Palace

This historic site was founded by the Akbar who was searching for a new capital for his empire. He took a keen interest in the designs and construction of the buildings. Red sandstone was extensively used in the construction of this city because of its easy availability in the nearby areas of Fatehpur Sikri. The resulting city after fifteen years of hard work was a grand beauty in red stone but was soon deserted due to the lack of water system. It remained untouched for more than 400 years and remains of Mughal heritage are available there even now.

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Fatehpur Sikri – Image by Siva Vasanth on flickr.com

Some of the important buildings located in Fatehpur Sikri that are worth visiting sites are as follows:-

Buland Darwaja: – It is the largest gateway 550 meters high in the world. It is sometimes called the Gate of Magnificence. The central portico comprises of arched entrances and the largest arch is placed in the center, so known by the local people as the Horseshoe Gate. Outside the Darwaja, there is deep well. It is an astounding piece of architecture of Mughal Empire.

Buland Darwaja

Buland Darwaja

Tomb of Salim Chisti: – It is a white marble tomb located within the Jama mosque’s courtyard. This single storey structure was built around a central square chamber and within which there is the grave of the saint.

Tomb of Salim Chishti

Tomb of Salim Chishti

Naubat Khana: – Naubat Khana is basically a drum house located near the entry point where significant arrivals are announced.

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Naubat Khana – Image by Glee Bean on flickr.com

Diwan-e-Aam: – It is a famous hall of public audience where the rulers meet the general public and resolve their problems.

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Diwan-e-Aam – Image by SuprateekaHegde on flickr.com

Diwan-e-Khaas: – It is a hall of private audience and popular for its huge central pillar as it has thirty-six volute brackets supporting a circular platform. It is said that here Akbar had different representatives of different religions who discuss their faiths over there.

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Diwan-e-Khaas

Raja Birbal’s House: – Birbal’s house is the house of Akbar’s favorite minister who was a Hindu and a wise man. The building has a unique architecture, the horizontal sloping sunshades or chajjas give it a unique look.

House of Raja Birbal

Raja Birbal’s Palace – Image by rustyproof on flickr.com

Mariam-uz-Zamani’s Palace: – This building shows Gujarati influence and is built around a courtyard and special care is being taken to ensure privacy.

Mariam-uz-Zamani's Palace

Mariam-uz-Zamani’s Palace – Image by octopuzz on flickr.com

Panch Mahal: – It is a five storied structure consists of intricately carved columns especially on the bottom floor. On the ground floor, it has 176 carved columns that make it a unique structure.

Panch Mahal

Panch Mahal – Image by Walwyn on flickr.com

Jama Masjid: – It is a mosque which is the first building that built in the whole complex of Fatehpur Sikri. A notable feature of the mosque is the row of chariot located there for over the centuries.

Jama Masjid in Fatehpur Sikri

Jama Masjid – Image by xiquinhosilva on flickr.com

Other buildings of the city include Taksal, Daftar Khana, Karkhanas, Khazana, Turkic styled Baths, Darogha’s Quarters, Stables, Caravan Sarai, etc. So, visiting this city give you the feeling that it’s a ghost city as it is totally deserted and nobody lives here. After visiting that you will never forget the city’s architecture that is famous all over India and visited by a large number of people.

 

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View Through the Windows of the Hawa Mahal

View Through the Windows of the Hawa Mahal

The Palace of Winds is a commonly known name of the famous monument “Hawa Mahal” of Jaipur, Rajasthan, India. Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh built it in 1798 and the design of it was formed by Lal Chand Ustad. Lal Chand Ustad was the famous architecture of that time, he also designed the Jaipur city. The design of the Hawa Mahal was in the form of the crown of Lord Krishna. The architecture of the palace is really marvelous and reflects the Rajasthani culture.

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Hawa Mahal – Jaipur

This five storey building is very unique in its structure. It looks like a honeycomb of the beehive as it has 953 small windows popularly called as Jharokha. The motive of the number of Jharokas is to allow royal ladies to watch the everyday life in the street as the purdah system was on peak at those times. So, the Mahal was built for the royal ladies so that they can enjoy and interact with the natural surroundings while residing in the palace itself. Besides this the Jharokhas also provide a cool breeze and air conditioned the whole building in peak summers, so, the name is given to it “Hawa Mahal”.

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Rear view of Hawa Mahal

An interesting fact about the Hawa Mahal is that the thickness of the walls of the palace is even lesser than a foot but carved so beautifully. It is made of red and pink sandstone, the palace is situated on the main boulevard in the heart of Jaipur’s business center. It forms part of the City Palace and also extends to the Zenana or the women’s chambers. Its view is particularly striking when seen it early morning as it lit with the golden light of sunrise which makes it beautiful.

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Jharoka or Latticed Window

On entering the Palace, there is a door which leads to a spacious courtyard surrounded by two-storey buildings on the three sides. Of the five storeys of the Mahal, the top three storeys have broad enough like a single room while the bottom storeys have courtyards. The interior of the Hawa Mahal is flagrant and plain with passages and pillars that leads to the top storey. The palace does not have stairs to reach the top floors; they are connected just by slopes. From Hawa Mahal, one can have a panoramic view of the pink city. It also has an archaeological museum in which the paintings and sculptures of Maharaja’s and Rani’s are located elegantly.

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Courtyard inside Hawa Mahal

Some nearby tourist attractions while traveling to Hawa Mahal are the Jantar Mantar, Govind Dev Ji temple, Amer Fort, Nahargarh Fort, Ram Niwas Bagh, Birla Planetarium, etc. So, the palace is a tourist site in Rajasthan while one is planning a trip his/her trip. It makes an exemplary portraying dignity in the honor of the city’s royal women, so has a great significance in the history pages of Rajasthan.

 
 

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