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:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Delhi – The Forts Part 2 Purana Qila

The Purana Qila or Old Fort is the site of Delhi’s sixth city of Dinpanah  established by Humayun in 1533 to mark the return of the Mughal capital to Delhi from Agra. Sitting on the banks of the Yumana it is also thought to be a possible site of Indraprastha, the city founded by Arjun in the Mahabharata and archaeological evidence of early settlements on the site are being investigated. The fort is laid out in an irregular oblong pattern with the principal gateways along the eastern walls and ramparts and was moated connecting to the Yumuna on the east side although nowadays all that remains is a boating lake on the Western side.

There are three gateways being the Talaqi, Bara and Humayun Darwaza (respectively in the North-West, South-West and South). The gateways remain impressive and are rather grand and topped with chhatris.

The main access is via the South-West gate or Bara Darwaza  from near the Delhi zoo, the South and North-West gates were both inaccessible on my visits in both 2001 and 2004. The entrance from near the zoo and the view back from the inside.

It looked like due to its state of disrepair that the South entrance is permanently closed although the North-West one appeared serviceable.
Humayun ruled from 1530 to 1540 and from 1555 to 1556, having been usurped for a period by the Afghan Sher Shah (who ruled in Delhi from 1540 to his death in 1545)) who extended Humayun’s city to the north to the site of Feroz Shah Kotla and it is some of Sher Shah’s buildings that remain today.
This is another place where most of the buildings are long gone but by 2004 there was significant renovation work under way to preserve the site.
There are large and well maintained gardens that are popular with young couples in particular although my guide in 2001 had me very confused as he pointed to them and said repeatedly “cold tea”, “they are cold tea”. I eventually realised that he meant “they are courting”!
Sher Shah’s Qal’a-i-Kuhna Masjid was built in 1541 with five great arches and a central dome. The courtyard contains a large well for washing before prayer.
The mosque is very near the Eastern wall preventing me getting a full shot of the front!

The marble inlaid sandstone decoration marks the change from Lodi to Mughal architecture in the old mosques of Delhi and this example has oriel windows at the sides and rear with corner towers on the rear. The eave brackets and arches are richly decorated throughout.
The central mihrab of the mosque is particularly impressive and reasonably well preserved.
The decoration is carried up into the arches and brackets of the roof and there is a stucco work ceiling.
There is a step well come reservoir that has been renovated although there was no evidence of water on my visits. The rear tower of Sher Shah’s mosque can be seen in the background.
The Sher  Mandal is thought to have been built as a pleasure house for Sher Shah in 1541 but became Humayun’s library on his return to Delhi in 1555. He is said to have died here from a fall on the stairs answering the call to prayer.
It is a two-storey octagonal structure with recessed arches are on each side while on the upper storey is a cruciform chamber with recesses on each side. The interior is decorated with glazed tiles and stucco work in the familiar Mughal geometric pattern.
Purana Qila photo collection:
More on Purana Qila:

Monday, June 13, 2011

Delhi – The Forts Part 3 Feroz Shah Kotla and Tughluqabad

Feroz Shah was the third of the Tughluq rulers reigning from 1351 to 1388. His citadel stood until 1398 when Timur (or Tamburlaine) sacked what was then the fifth incarnation of the city of Delhi.
The citadel stands next to the cricket ground of the same name and is entered through a main gate on its western side flanked by two large bastions.

Most of the stonework was removed in the 17th Century for the construction of Shahjahanabad although the foundation works remain as a layout particularly in the gatehouse and barrack areas inside the main gate.

The citadel is said to have included palaces, pillared halls, mosques, a pigeon tower and a baoli (stepped well) although most of the site is now in ruins.

There had been some considerable progress in preserving the site between my visits in 2001 and 2004, not least to the outer walls to help preserve the integrity of the site.

Although reputedly a weak ruler Feroz Shah was known as a great builder, intellectual and “antique” collector who encouraged a great deal of translation work of Sanskrit texts into Arabic and Persian. In typical Mughal style the grounds include a large walled garden area that was undergoing a lot of work in 2004 to improve the site.

The main palace that remains is built pyramid style in three tiers with an Ashoka pillar placed on top. Feroz acquired two Ashoka pillars (carved between 273 and 236 BC) at Meerut and Topla that were floated down the Yumana to Delhi. One he placed on the North Ridge above the City while the other tops his pyramid style palace at his citadel.

The Ashoka pillar sits on top and is thought to have been surrounded by ornamental friezes with a stone balustrade around it. It also reputedly had a canopy of gilded copper. Only some very small segments of the balustrade remain.

This is the Topla pillar and in addition to the Ashoka edicts it records the 12th Century conquests of the Chauhan Prince Visala Deva.
Despite all his other translation works the Ashoka edicts could not be translated by Feroz’s scholars and so he is reputed to have been told that they were magical charms used in ancient religious rituals.
The mosque was built in 1354 and was the largest of a total of seven mosques that were built in Delhi during Feroz Shah’s reign. The entrance is on the northern side as the wall at the Eastern end of the courtyard was next to the Yumana when it was built.

The rear of the West wall is the only one now standing and in a poor state of repair. It is said that the courtyard had a sunken octagonal feature in the centre in the walls of which was carved a record of Feroz Shah’s public works.
The mosque is thought to have been visited by Timur in 1398 and he took a number of the artisans with him to build a mosque on the same pattern at Samarkand.
The baoli (stepped well) is the other remaining building although in poor condition and is fenced off for safety reasons.
Fortunately the gates are not very secure and it was interesting to see that it still had (very unhealthy looking) water inside.

Feroz Shah Kotla photo collection:

More on the Feroz Shah Kotla:

The site of Tughluqabad (the third city of Delhi) is on a rocky outcrop to improve its defences and has a perimeter of approximately 6.5q km on an octagonal pattern.  The walls are rubble built and pierced by loopholes and it is crowned with stone battlements. There are thirteen outer gates that are all very small and protected by large bastions and just three inner gates to the citadel.
The fort is in ruins with excavations still going on but it is easy to see the stone block over rubble, over earthwork wall construction. Curiously the wall slope inwards at an angle of approx 25 degrees.
Entering from the south the citadel lies to the right with the palace buildings to the left with the town beyond in a grid pattern. There was very little left of the Palace building on my visits in 2001 and 2004.

Ghiyas-ud-din Tughluq was the first of the Tughluq dynasty ruling from 1320 to 1325 before being murdered by his son Muhammad. In marked contrast to my visit in 2001 by 2004 there was extensive renovation work under way on the palace area.
The Citadel is extensively ruined with the exception being the underground market, a stagnant and very smelly (but also very large) well, and a modest mosque that stood in the harem quarter.

The underground market could be entered although it didn’t appear very safe with rubble having fallen into the space below ground and access by the steps being a little awkward.
The central passageway was in decent condition with the recesses for lamps clearly spaced out. The “shops” are arranged on each side and many of them are however now “caving in”, although on my visit in 2001 I was more concerned about how many times I disturbed the bats who were in residence!

The Zenana (or harem) mosque is very small but remains in place with a small courtyard to its front.

Tughluq’s tomb stands to the south across a causeway that ran across the reservoir, although dry today it is separated from Tughluqabad by the Mehrauli-Badarpur Road.  The mausoleum is in a pentagonal enclosure in the style of a small fortress complete with battlements and bastions.

The entrance is via a large red sandstone gatehouse at the head of a large flight of steps from the causeway.

The mausoleum is a large square red sandstone structure of sloping walls topped by battlements and a large marble dome.

There are three graves in the main tomb chamber, being Tughluq, his main wife and his son and successor Muhammad (who reigned from 1325 to 1351).

In the lower level of one of the bastions is the tomb of Zafar Khan and this is thought to have been the first construction on the site prior to Tughluq deciding to also build his tomb here.

Tughluqabad photo collection:

More on Tughluqabad:

More on the Tuqhluq tomb: