Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Bibi-Ka-Maqbara, Aurangabad

The Bibi Ka Maqbara (English:"Tomb of the Lady") is a maqbara located in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, India. It was built by Azam Shah, son of Aurangzeb, in 1678 in memory of his mother, Dilras Banu Begum (posthumously known as Rabia-ud-Daurani). It bears a striking resemblance to the famous Taj Mahal, the mausoleum of his grandmother, Mumtaz Mahal. Aurangzeb was not very interested in architecture, though he had built the small, but elegant,Pearl Mosque at Delhi. The Bibi Ka Maqbara was the largest structure that he had to his credit. Due to its strong resemblance to the Taj Mahal, it is also called theDakkhani Taj (Taj of the Deccan). Bibi Ka Maqbara is the principal monument of Aurangabad and its historic city. An inscription found on the main entrance door mentions that this mausoleum was designed and erected by Ata-ullah, an architect and Hanspat Rai, an engineer respectively.Ata-ullah was the son of Ustad Ahmad Lahauri, the principal designer of the Taj Mahal.

The mausoleum is built on a high square platform with four minarets at its corners, which is approached by a flight of steps from the three sides. A mosque is found to the west of the main structure, which was a later addition caused, by Nizam of Hyderabad resulting closure of the entrance. The mausoleum is encased with marble up to the dado level. Above the dado level, it is constructed of basaltic trap up to the base of dome; the latter is again built of marble. A fine plaster covers the basaltic trap and given a fine polished finish and adorned with fine stucco decorations. The mortal remain of Rabia-ul-Daurani is placed below the ground level surrounded by an octagonal marble screen with exquisite designs, which can be approached by a descending flight of steps. The roof of this chamber that corresponds to the ground level of the mausoleum is pierced by an octagonal opening and given a low barricaded marble screen. Thus the tomb can also be viewed from the ground level also through this octagonal opening. The mausoleum is crowned by a dome pierced with trellis works and accompanying panels decorated with flower designs. The smaller mosque, a later addition, stands to the west of the mausoleum. The bays are pierced through with five cusped arches and a minaret could be noticed at each corner. Small recesses, rosettes, and arabesques embellish the faqade. Mention may also be made here of the Sunheri Mahal, situated to the north of Bibi ka Maqbara, which is a notable building in the late Mughal style. It is of interest for the patches of old painting and goldwork that adorn the walls.The Maqbara is crowned by an onion dome. The main dome and minarets are smaller than the Taj Mahal. It is encased with marble only up to the dado level i.e. only the lower sections. The upper portion is constructed with a high-quality plaster, which gives a marble-like finish. However, the main dome is made of marble. Because of the use of such alternatives of marble, it is also referred as the ‘Poor Man’s Taj’. The moral remains can be viewed from the ground level inside an exquisitely designed marble chamber.

Seen by itself, Bibi Ka Maqbara is a beautiful piece of work, but it pales in comparison to its famous forbearer. While the monument in Agra is made entirely out of pure white marble, the mausoleum in Aurangabad is encased with marble only up to the dado level. Above this is covered with a fine plaster polished to give a marble-like finish. Only the onion dome was built with marble. The walls of the Maqbara are also a little dusky by contrast, which gives the mausoleum a duller appearance compared to the Taj. According to records, Bibi Ka Maqbara cost Alam Shah 700,000 Rupees to build. For comparison, the Taj Mahal was built at a cost of approximately 32 million Rupees at that time.Bibi Ka Maqbara’s diminutive status is a consequence of Aurangzeb’s lack of interest in architecture. Initially Aurangzeb was not in favour of building a monument as lavish as the Taj, and he prevented its construction by blocking the movement of marble from Rajasthan and various other parts of the Mughal empire. But his son Alam Shah was determined to have a monument to his mother that might vie with the Taj. Somehow, Alam Shah prevailed upon his father who eventually relented.Legend has it that in 1803, Nizam Sikander Jahan was so captivated by the Maqbara that when Aurangabad and the Marathwada area were annexed to his kingdom he planned to shift the Maqbara to his capital, Hyderabad. He even ordered dismantling of the structure, slab by slab. But, somehow, he had a premonition of some disaster which might befall him were he to harm the existing structure. He stopped the work and as a penance got a mosque built, which still stands to the west of the main structure.

The best time to visit Bibi ka Maqbara is during the months of October to March, these are the best time to visit, as the weather is really pleasant during these months.

Although April and May are holiday season (most of the school & colleges are shut downs during these months) in India, but the temperature is really high during these months i.e. between 37 °C to 44 °C making the weather really hot and humid making it difficult to travel around.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Gujarat Diaries:Polo Forest

It is said that tucked away in the forests there are secrets to be revealed and to be discovered. Polo forest is one such place with dense and green forest, gushing and crystal clear streams, unexplored and house to some of Gujarat's most ancient temple ruins with astounding beauty and a place away from the crowd and noise of the city and also from its pollution. A place worthy of spending your weekend and rejuvenating the lost energy of the week.It is comparatively cool there compared to the sizzling hot Ahmadabad. 

The best time to visit is during or right after the monsoon, when the places turns bright green.The 400 square km area of dry mixed deciduous forest is most lush between September and December after the monsoon rains when the rivers are full, but at any time of the year it provides a rich wildlife experience. There are more than 450 species of medicinal plants, around 275 of birds, 30 of mammals, and 32 of reptiles. There are bears, panthers, leopards, hyenas, water fowl, raptors and flying squirrels (mostly heard, rarely seen), all living under a canopy of diverse plants and trees. During winter, all manner of migratory birds occupy the forest; during the rainy season there are wetland birds. Its located near a place called Idar which will be your base as Polo forests have no hotels or guest houses where you could stay. The Polo Camp site is located in Vijayanagar taluka of Sabarkantha districts and is near to Vanaj Forest area, Harnav River and Damsite.It is 150 km from Ahmedabad and 70 km from Himatnagar.The area is surrounded with archeologically important Shiv Temple at Sarneshwar, Sadevant Savlings Deras, Surya Mandir, Lakhena Temple, Jain derasar, the ancient Polo Jain Nagri.

To walk among the lush green forests with your loved one or with your energetic friends or bubbling family members or in your own solitude has its own pleasure which can be experienced walking through the paths of polo forest. the streams flowing through this forest is crystal clear that you can see the pebbles beneath and enjoy watching the tiny fishes wading through. The ruins of the temples there gives us a glance into our past making us realize the richness of our culture and its uniqueness.

There is 15th century sandstone temple which is notable for its carved ceiling and its mandap jalis with a rich variety of geometric and natural patterns. the entrance to the gudha-mandap has an icon of the tirthankar  Parshvanathon the lintel,  and the images of yakshini Padmavati, traditionally attendant upon him on the side posts. the trika mandap , connecting two mandaps at different levels is an architectural response to local topography.

Another temple is the Sharneshwar temple which is described as a temple in enclosure. it was built in the 15th century and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. it is notable for its two storeyed construction surrounding wall with entrances on east and west, Nandi-mandapa in front and ambulatory around the sanctum. Carvings in the plinth and external wall depict divinities, scenes of social life, mythical beings and bands of elephants, horses and swans.

Some of the beautiful photos i go to click during my journey to this mind blowing place.