Thursday, July 28, 2016

Delhi - My Places and Days in Delhi

There’s no better place to start than at the beginning, my first “home” in Delhi – The Taj Mahal Hotel on Man Singh Road.

Arriving at 2am it was a restless first night back in 2001 and on opening the curtains before breakfast I was treated to the sight of an elephant and a camel on their way along the main road below! Breakfast done it was off to the office via the grandeur of India Gate to Sansad Marg.

As the business geared up the Finance team later moved out to what had been an earlier office on Kasturba Gandhi Marg. It was here that I developed a strange theme for my e-mail messages home as some pigeons nested on my window ledge and so there was soon a weekly baby pigeon report to add to my weekend days out!

The route on foot between the two offices took me past my primary lunch establishment for 2001.

The Maharajah Mac back then was a rather tasty lamb burger which sadly by 2004 had become a spicy chicken burger – still very nice though.

Weekends were split between a day out to one of the destinations in the rest of the blog or taking it a little easier in Delhi with some reading relaxation in one of the parks (Lodi Gardens mainly) or a bit of shopping. Khan market was a particular favourite for its bookshops

as was Connaught place.
 The Palika bazaar was always a strangely claustrophobic experience being located beneath Palika Park.

A more modern shopping outing was to be had at one of the first new shopping malls at Ansals Plaza. This Plaza entered into my personal folklore as the last place I got into a fight! Approaching the front of the queue in McDonald’s I put my hand in my pocket to get some money and there was another hand already in there! Holding onto the ne’er do well’s hand meant I could only deliver a swift left hook before being bundled over from behind. The most bizarre element was watching the three man pickpocket gang escaping as the security guard stood there holding the door open with a stupid big grin on his face (no doubt highly amused at watching some fat white bloke getting up off the floor shouting abuse).

Souvenir shopping at the tourist sites can mean a LOT of hassle and a more pleasant (albeit more expensive) option are the State controlled "Emporiums" dotted around central Delhi the largest being on Janpath opposite McDonalds.

In 2004 my initial home was the Grand Hyatt sort of midway between Delhi “proper” and the new company office in Gurgaon.

Unfortunately with Delhi traffic conditions this meant a lot of time sat in the car traveling to and from work so I moved on to the Trident Hilton in Gurgaon.

This did save a lot of travel time for me and when I got a room upgrade gave me a fantastic view from my hotel room.

The new offices at the time were on MG Road in Gurgaon which was very much “under development” which added to the general chaos of getting around. The big plus was that this office block did have retail outlets on the lower floor including a music bar.

Lunch here became more varied with a choice of malls, Metropolitan Mall for McDonalds or occasionally the cowboy themed Mexican restaurant!
If I felt adventurous then by taking my life into my hands and jaywalking across MG road got me to the Sahara Mall and Haldirams or a supply of snacks from the Big Bazaar supermarket – YUM!

This time around my weekend days in Delhi started to include a visit to the malls for the cinema which was an interesting experience. Troy in a packed out “old school” big screen cinema was special and came with fellow patrons arguing and trying to start a fight in the interval due to someone’s constant chatter! I also got to support the Company cricket team when they had a game and was a little disappointed that so few staff made any effort to give the lads some support. While I didn’t get to play I did get to present the Man of the Match award occasionally.

August 2004 was departure time once again and there was a very pleasant “leaving do” in the aforementioned Music Bar.

Many thanks to Joydeep Mukherjee (my replacement) for making the arrangements, Indira Lopchan for her singing, and of course Stuart Purdy the Aviva India CEO for the opportunity!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Introduction - Phil's Indian Memories

This blog is my record of my time in India in 2001 and 2004 working for CGNU/Aviva, based in Delhi.

Things didn’t start well as expecting a very different cultural experience, on my way out I decided that a decent digital camera would be the best way to keep a good record of things. An Olympus was duly bought duty free at Heathrow which unfortunately meant I arrived with a camera that didn’t work and a European guarantee!  

Consequently while I kept a fairly detailed diary there may at times appear to be a slight disconnect between the photographs in my collection as they were all taken in 2004.

I have included picture highlights here with links to the relevant part of my photograph collection and to more detailed information now available on the internet – enjoy!

Content List

Delhi – my places                                                   

Delhi – my highlight, The Qut’b Minar

Delhi – The Forts Part 1 The Red Fort

Delhi – The Forts Part 2 Purana Qila

Delhi – The Forts Part 3 Feroz Shah Kotla and Tughlaqabad

Delhi – The Tombs Part 1 Humayun and Safdar Jang tombs

Delhi – The Tombs  Part 2 Lodi Gardens and other tombs

Delhi – Places of worship 

Delhi – Museums

Delhi – The British Raj

Delhi – Jantar Mantar, Suraj Kund and, The Zoo

Delhi – To the North, Kurukshetra and Thanesar

Delhi – To the South, Ballabhgarh, Narnaul, Neemrana and Sohna

Agra (Uttar Pradesh) – Part 1 Taj Mahal

Agra (Uttar Pradesh) – Part 2 Red Fort

Agra (Uttar Pradesh) – Part 3 I’timad and Akbar Tombs

Fatehpur Sikri (Uttar Pradesh)

Other places in Uttar Pradesh

Jaipur (Rajasthan) - Part 1 Amber

Jaipur (Rajasthan) - Part 2 Jaipur City

Other places in Rajasthan                                                

The Punjab                                                                          

The Himalaya Foothills                              

Mumbai (Maharashtra)

Gwalior (Madhya Pradesh)

Delhi – my highlight, The Qut’b Minar

This relatively unknown and little publicised site was quite a revelation to me in 2001 and for all the other relics of the Mughal era it makes a great impression in terms of the scale of their ambition and their devotion to Islam, from the magnificent Qut'b Minar itself to the completely bonkers conept of the Alai Minar (a 500 foot tall stone tower in an earthquake zone!).

In 1193 the Governor of Delhi (and later first sultan of the Lodi slave dynaty) Aibak built India’s first mosque here. The Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid (might of Islam mosque). The site over time including a mosque, a number of tombs, a college (madrasa), and the magnificent Qut’b Minar that was begun by Aibak and is a red sandstone and marble 240 foot high intricately carved tower.

Aibak had the first storey built and the next three were completed by his son-in-law Iltutmish. Later Feroz Shah Tughluq built two further storeys in 1368 made of Makrana marble (partly to replace some lightning damage) and added a cupola at the top that was removed by the British and now sits apart in the gardens.

The Minar is richly decorated with fluting up each stage and elaborate platforms.

More on the Qut'b Minar

The mosque is laid out on a large rectangular pattern covering an area of 43m by 33m enclosed by cloisters. The mosque was extended by both Iltutmish and later Ala-ud-din who carried out a number of other works.

The mosque was largely built from twenty-seven Hindu and Jain temples that were demolished in the area and re-used that can be seen in the remaining columns of the mosque cloisters.

Aibak built the huge five-arched screen (maqsura) in 1199 covered in deeply incised Qur’an verses.
The Sanskrit inscribed Gupta iron pillar is thought to be 4th or 5th century and its origins and casting are unknown, it carries the legend that anyone who can encircle it with their arms will have their wish granted.

The tomb of Iltutmish (ruled 1211 to 1236) is here and is richly carved in keeping with the surroundings.

More on the tomb

The Alai Minar was initiated by Ala-ud-din (ruled 1296 to 1316) and abandoned at his death. The core of the first storey stands some 75 feet tall and is impressive in the scale of its ambition the intention being that it would be twice the height of the Qut’b Minar.
More on the Alai Minar
Ala-ud-din built a college  complex here for Islamic studies (madrasa) that later incorporated his tomb. The college is a quadrangle surrounded by high walls lined with rooms with an entrance in the west.

Ala-ud-din also added the Alai Darwaza gateway in 1311 being the first example of wholly Islamic principles in its geometric design and ornamentation. Built in red sandstone it has bands of white marble that are heavily inscribed under its large dome.
More on the Alai Darwaza

The Imam Zamin tomb is a much later addition being early 16th Century. The Imam is said to have come from Turkestan to the court of Sikander Lodi. The tomb was built during his lifetime (he died in 1539) and has typical Lodi period features particularly in its perforated screens.

Qut'b photo collection:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Delhi – The Forts Part 1 The Red Fort

What is today known as “Old Delhi” was the seventh city of Delhi known originally as Shahjahanabad built by Shah Jahan the fifth Mughal empreror (ruling from 1627 to 1658) when he moved his capital from Agra in 1638.
The city was established once again on the East bank of the Yumana but to the north of the previous Delhi cities.

Today the great relics of Shahjahanabad are the Jama Masjid and the Red Fort although some of the old city walls also remain.
Entrance is via the Lahore Gate in the West that originally opened into Chandni Chowk that runs up to the Jama Masjid but Aurungzeb added the great bastion to it’s front which is the first sight on approaching the Fort nowadays.

The Red Fort at Delhi is approximately twice the size of that at Agra although sadly many of the palace buildings were demolished by the British in 1858 following the mutiny and a number of buildings were looted in other wars in the region (see Deeg for example).

Once through the entrance gate there is a passageway through the bazaar that was originally for the courtiers but continues today and is very busy and a little cramped.
The first building exiting the Bazaar area is the Naqqar-Khana (Royal drumhouse) where official visitors would be disarmed and announced to the accompaniment of cymbals, drums and trumpets before they move on to the audience hall. Today the building I home to a fairly large Arms and Armour Museum although when I visited in 2001 was rather gloomy inside.
The Diwan I Am was the hall for public audiences for the Emperor and his Prime Minister. The building has a front hall on a sandstone plinth open on three sides backed by a series of rooms faced in red sandstone.
Courtiers occupied the hall watched through the latticed windows by the women of the court, while the public occupied the courtyard to the hall’s front.
This large hall is divided into 27 square bays in a system of columns supporting the roof arches.
The Emperor’s throne would sit under the marble canopy in the centre of the Hall while the Prime Minister would greet petitioners on the marble dias to its front. The stucco work through out the hall would have been gilded while the whole hall would have had many curtains hung from the ceiling.
There is a large formal garden between the Diwan I Am and the palace buildings. The gardens have a large system of water courses and are laid out around a big central fountain.
The remaining palace building today run along the eastern side of the fort compound, here left to right the Diwan I Kha, Khas Mahal, and Rang Mahal. Further to the right is the Mumtaz Mahal that houses a small museum.
The Rang Mahal was the main entertainment house of the harem and was richly decorated including an array of small mirrors in the ceiling that were looted by Jats. The building has a fountain and water course that runs through the building known as the Nahr-I-Bihist or “Stream of Paradise”.
The Khas Mahal was the main private residence of the Emperor. There are three marble rooms, a bedroom, a wardrobe/dressing room and a library/sitting room. At the eastern end is a small octagonal domed tower the Muthamman Burj where the emperor would appear every morning to be seen by his subjects below the fort walls.
The marble columns and screens are richly decorated including images of the scales of justice.
The Diwan I Khas was used by the emperor for private audience with courtiers and state guests. The hall is built in marble throughout with magnificent inlay and paint work.
The central dias was home to the Peacock Throne before it was looted by Nadir Shah in 1739 and removed to Tehran.
The Hammam (bathhouse) was closed on both my visits although a peek through the windows gives some indication of the luxury in which the Emperor took his hot and cold baths in richly decorated marble baths. It is said that some of the fountains in the baths ran with perfumed water.
The small Moti Masjid or Pearl Mosque was added by Aurangzeb (the third son of Shah Jahan who became emperor after imprisoning his father and murdering his brothers) in 1659. It is claimed to be more an act of penance than to avoid the short walk to the Jama Masjid to pray.
The mosque is enclosed in a courtyard to preserve the privacy of the Emperor and is laid out in typical Mughal style albeit entirely in marble with extensive decoration.
Beyond the Masjid and Hammam to the north lies another formal garden with extensive water features and further palace buildings that were occupied by family and courtiers.
The key feature at the north end of the palace complex is the music gallery set in a system of pools, water channels and fountains.
The Music Gallery is flanked by two pavilions (to the North and South) for the audience that have as part of the water system waterfalls at the centre of the building.
The North Palace was for the princes and is located in the North East corner of the palace compound.
The Tea House was the first palace built on the northern end of the palace complex to house and is next to the North Palace. The building has been extensively remodeled and updated, first as a meeting place for British army officers following the Mutiny and today to provide tea rooms and a souvenir shop.
The remaining palace buildings were demolished following the Mutiny as to prevent the risk of any future uprising using the Red Fort as the focal point the British Army took up residence but this does mean there are excellent examples of 19th Century Barracks that are now occupied by the Indian army. 

Red Fort photo collection:

More on the Delhi red fort: