Friday, 30 September 2016

Delhi Diaries: Safdarjung's Tomb

Safdarjung's Tomb is the last enclosed garden tomb in Delhi in tradition of Humayun's Tomb, though it does not match the grandeur pf the Humayun's tomb. It was built in 1753-54 by Nawab Shuja-ud-Daulah, son of Safdarjung and it was designed by an Abyssinian architecture. Safdarjung was the governor of Awadh and later on the Prime Minister of Muhammad Shah, the Mughal Emperor. It lies by the Lodhi road, New Delhi. It is constructed in Mughal Charbagh style, roughly on the pattern of Humayun's tomb.

Safdarjung Tomb is constructed in the center of a huge garden across a area of 300 square meter. The mausoleum is a square double storeyed structure built on a raised terrace and surmounted by a bulbous dome made of marble.the tomb has four key features which are the Charbagh pattern with the mausoleum in the center, a nine fold plan, a five part facade and a large podium with hidden stairway.The tomb's construction id done using red sandstone and buff stone. The main entry is two storeyed , its facade having a very elaborate ornamentation over plastered surface and is in ornate purple color. To the right of the gate lies a mosque, a three domed structure marked with stripes. There are two graves enclosed here one of Safdarjung and the other apparently his wife's. The central chamber is in square shape which is surrounded by eight rooms which are rectangular in shape expect the corner ones which are octagonal. There are four towers surrounding the tomb at the corners, polygonal in shape with kiosks, also having marble panels and decorated arches. The garden surrounding the tomb is enclosed by a wall approximately 280 meters long on each side.On the other side of the tomb lies many small pavilions with evocative names namely "Moti Mahal", "Jangli Mahal" (Palace in the woods), and Badshah Palace (King's favorite).

Safdarjung's Tomb signifies the downfall of the Mughal rule which is the last monument in the legacy of Mughal architectures. It has been described as the "last flicker in the lamp of Mughal architecture in Delhi".

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Delhi Diaries:Qutub Minar

Qutb complex holds a stronghold place in 664 years of Muslim rule in India.It is now the city’s logo and India’s capital is identified with Qutb complex. The important monuments of Qutb complex are Qutab Minar, Quwwat-Ul-Islam mosque, Alai-Darwaza and Alai-Minar.It was in Lalkot that Qutbud-Din-Aibak, Iltumish and Balban who were mere slaves rose to the highest position of sultans in the country.  Lalkot was also a mute witness to their soaring ambitions, untiring struggle, indefatigable energy and finally occupation of the highest position in the country. It was in lalkot that Raziya, the first and only lady sultan of India occupied her throne defying the current political, social and religious customs.Thus Lalkot stands for the emancipation of women and their empowerment.

Qutub Minar, the tallest brick minaret, the tallest stone tower in India was conceived by Qutbuddin-Aibak as a tower of victory attached to Quwwat-ul-Aslam mosque. Qutbuddin Aibak of the Mamluk dynasty laid the foundations towards the twelfth century and completed the first storey. The construction was interrupted at the first storey by his death and the remaining three storeys were completed in matching material and style by his successor Iltutmish commonly known as Altamash in A.D. 1230. In A.D. 1368 the minar was damaged by lightining later Firoz Shah Tughluq replaced the top storeyed by existing two storeys faced with marble. Sikander Lodhi also executed some repairs to the minar in A.D. 1503, when it was again stuck by lighting. The tower has a diameter of 14.32m at the base and of about 2.75m at the top with a height of 72.5m and ascended by 379 steps, it is the highest stone tower and a perfect example of minar known to exist anywhere. But yet it is 5ft less than the Taj Mahal. The variegated plan of its three lower storeys, the projecting balconies with stalactite pendentive brackets and ornate bands of inscriptions on its facades heighten its decorative effect. The lower storey with alternate angular and circular flutings, the second with round ones and the third with angular ones only, keeping throughout the same alignment, gives a pleasing vertical look to the minar. The decorative inscriptional bands defines each storey with its undulating curves.

At the foot of tower is the Quwwat-ul-Islam, the first mosque to be built in India. An inscription over its eastern gate provocatively informs that the mosque was built with the remnants obtained by demolishing 27 Hindu temples. It consists of rectangular courtyard enclosed by cloisters, erected with carved columns. A 7 high iron pillar stands in the courtyard of the mosque. It bears a Sanskrit inscription in Gupta Brahmi script, palaeographical assignable to the fourth century, a date which is confirmed by the peculiar style of its amalaka capital. The inscription records that the pillar was set up as a standard of God Vishnu on the hill known as Vishnupada, in memory of mighty king Chandra. It is said to be bought to Delhi from Angapal somewhere in the 11th century. The total height of this tapering shaft is 24 feet of which 3 feet is buried inside the ground. Weighing about 6000 kg and made of corrosion free wrought iron, the pillar is metallurgical marvel of ancient India and is unique in the annals of metallurgical research. It is said that if you can encircle it with your hands while standing with your back to it your wish will be fulfilled.

The tomb of Iltutmish, successor of Qutbuddin Aibak, lie north-west of the mosque. It is the first example of Indo-Islamic structure built in India in about 1253A.D by Iltutmish where marble was used along with red sandstone.The structure consist of a tomb chamber with a central cenotaph. Its area is 9 square meters. The interior on the west is occupied by three mihrabs, the central one higher and ornamented with marble to serve as place of prayer. The tomb is profusely carved on the entrances and in the interior with inscription in Kufi and Naskh characters and geometric and arabesque patterns in Saracenic tradition.

Alai-Darwaza is one of the four gateways constructed by Alaud-Din-Khilji when he extended the mosque. This is located to the southern side of the mosque. It’s a magnificent square domed building with intricate carvings in red sandstone and marble. In 1311, to commemorate his victory over the deccan  planned to build another minar double the diameter and height of Qutab Minar. But shortly after the construction began he died and it was left incomplete. The ruins of the tower can be still seen, along with a group of ruined structures of Alaud-Din-Khilji’s tomb and madrasa making an L shaped block is located to the left the mosque. The concept of a combined tomb and religious college appears here in India for the first time and is inspired by Saljuqi tradition.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Delhi Diaries:Red Fort

Red Fort also known as Lal Quila is a century old monument giving us the glimpses of the majestic Mughal rule and their magnificent architectures. Red Fort is considered one of the most iconic monument of Delhi telling the stories of the dynasties who ruled the city through centuries. 'At the stroke of midnight, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.....', the remarkable speech which embarked the Independence of India as free nation was made at the Red Fort, a politically significant monument.

Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan moved his empire capital from Agra to newly constructed city in Delhi which he called Shahjahanabad in 1638.As he constructed the new capital.he laid foundation for his palace, the great Red Fort. The massive walled citadel with red sandstone walls took almost a decade to complete to its present grandeur.  For almost 22 years, the Mughals ruled their kingdom from this fort after which it fell into the hands of the Britishers. It is said that the last Mughal ruler Bahadur Shah Zafar was corona ted in this palace in 1837, but during those times his powers did not exceed beyond the palace boundaries. The Britishers occupied the fort till August 1947

Red Fort was originally called 'Qila-e-Mubharak' . The architecture of the fort gives us a glimpse of the cultural intermingling which the Mughals brought into India. It depicts the amalgamation of The Mughal style of architecture and also traces of Persian, Timurid and Hindu traditions.The fort is built along side the Yamuna river, with a massive wall around it for protection. The of the fort is in octagon shape, covering a land of 256 acres of land. There are two entrances to this magnificent fort namely the Delhi gate and Lahori gate. The Lahori gate faces the Chandni Chowk, one of the most crowded markets that identify old Delhi. Walking through the Lahori gate, one enters covered two storey passage, flanked by arcade apartments on both sides. There are 32 arched bays which served as shops during Mughal period as it does today. The compound of the Red Fort houses a number of beautiful buildings, among which the most well known are Diwan-i-Aam(The Hall of Public Audiences), Diwan-i-Khas(Hall of Private Audience), Rang Mahal,(Palace of Colors), Moti Masjid(Pearl Mosque), Mumtaz Mahal, The Khaz Mahal and the Hammam(the royal bath).

The Naubat Khana(Drum House) stands at the entrance to the palatial complex. In its days of glory musicians announced the arrival of the Emperor or other prominent dignitaries from here. Faced with red sandstone it is a large three storeyed building, rectangular on plan with carved floral designs. The later Mughal kings Jahandar Shah and Farrukhisyar are said to be assassinated here.  Diwan-i-Khas also known as Shah Mahal was the Hall of Private Audience used by the Emperor for receiving selected courtiers and visitors. It consists of a rectangular central chamber, surrounded by series of arches rising from piers.The lower parts of the piers are inlaid with floral designs, while the upper portions are gilded and painted. The four corners of its roof are surmounted by pillared chhatris.Over the marble pedestal in its center stood the famous 'Peacock Throne' which was removed  in 1739 by Nadir Shah. Through the center of the hall flowed the Nahar-i-Bihisht called 'Stream of Paradise'. Over the corner arches of the northern and southern walls below the cornice is inscribed the famous verse of Amir Khushro exclaiming "If there is paradise on the earth, it is this, it is this, it is this". 'Diwan-i-Aam' or the 'Hall of Audience' was the place were Shah Jahan recieved the general publicand heard their grievances. With an impressive facade of nine arch openings, the hall was ornamented with gilded stucco work. In the center of the eastern wall, stands a marble canopy covered by a 'Bengal roof' under which was the Emperors throne. A marble dais below the throne, inlaid with semiprecious stones was used by wazir.

Nahr-i-Bihisht or the 'Canal of Paradise' was an important feature of the fort in providing a continuous supply of water distributed throughout the gardens and interiors which served as air conditioner.The 'Rang Mahal' or 'Palace of Colors' consists of a large hall, originally painted on the interior from which it derived its name. This was the largest of the royal apartments, and hence was also called as 'Imtiyaz Mahal' or 'Palace of Distinction'. It is divided into six apartments by en-railed arches set on its piers. The northern and southern ends of the palace are known as 'Shish Mahal'(Palace of Mirrors). Over the walls and ceilings are embedded tiny pieces of mirrors, which reflect light creating a picturesque effect.Through the center along its length flows the Nahr-i-Bihsht, in the center lays a marble basin, which is believed to be provided with ivory fountain.

The Khas Mahal was the emperors private palace wherein underneath they organized the animal fights. The palace consists of three parts, the set of three rooms facing the Diwan-i-Khas was called "Tashib-Khana"(Chamber of telling Beads), used for Emperors private worship. The three rooms behind it were called 'Khwabgah'(sleeping chamber). To its south was a long hall with its painted walls and ceilings and a perforated screen on to its west was known as 'Tosh Khana' (robe chamber). A beautiful perforated marble screen carved with 'Scale of Justice' adorns its northern walls. The projecting tower to the east of the Khas Mahalis called 'Muthamman Burj'(octagonal tower) from where the emperor appeared to greet crowd. Moti Masjid or the Pearl Palace was build by Aurangzeb for his personal use, built over a raised plinth and is entered through an eastern arched gateway with a copper plated door. Its interiors have been entirely composed of pure white marbles. 'Hayat Baksh' or 'life bestowing garden' laid in Char Bagh Mughal pattern with causeways and channels, was the most beautiful and well planned garden in the entire palace.

It was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2007. On Independence Day, the prime minister hoists the national flag at the main gate of the fort and delivers his independence day speech from its ramparts.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Taj Mahal: Epitome of Love

One of the seven wonders of world, Taj Mahal is an ivory white monument, enacting the saga of eternal love and the grandeur of Mughal architecture.Rabrindranath Tagore describes it as "Teardrop on the cheek of eternity", whereas Rudyard Kipling describes it as "the embodiment of all things pure" while its creator, Shah Jahan says it made "the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes". Every year more than twice the population of entire Agra city visits this world heritage sight to take a glimpse at this mausoleum of love.

The Taj Mahal a marvel on marble was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in commemoration of his favorite wife Empress Mumtaz Mahal. Shahjahan married Arjumand Bano Begum, daughter of Itimad-ul-Daula, the Wazir of Emperor Jahangir in 1612 A.D. Mumtaz Mahal died in 1631 A.D. at the birth of her 14th child. The grief stricken emperor made all efforts in building the tomb in her memory, which is universally acknowledged as one of the most beautiful creations on the earth. After his death in 1666 A.D., Shah Jahan was also buried alongside Mumtaz Mahal, his beloved wife in Taj Mahal.
Artisans were requisitioned from all over the empire, including Central Asia and Iran. While bricks for the internal framework were locally made whereas white marble for external surface where brought from Makrana, Rajasthan. The inscription on northern fa├žade records 1057A.H.(1647 A.D.) as the date of its completion in 17 years at the cost of about rupees four crores at a time when gold was sold at Rs. 15 per tola. Shehab-Ud-Din-Muhammad Shah Jahan, the grandson of Emperor Akbar had an aesthetic sense for architecture and under his age Mughal architecture reached its zenith. It is believed that Ustad Ahmad Lahoriwas the chief of project while Ustad Isa Afandi prepared the site plan for Taj Mahal. Amanat Ali Khan Shirazi is known for his calligraphic work and Ran Mal the garden designer from Kashmir.
The plan of Taj Mahal display strict bilateral symmetry. The central point is the tomb and its four minarets flanked by a mosque and assembly hall (Mehman Khana). The Taj is exactly as high as its width. A highlight of the monument is the exquisitely carved pietra dura inlaid with semi-precious stones.The color of the translucent marble keeps changing from dawn to midnight giving it a magical aura in keeping with Shah Jahan’s vision that the tomb and its surrounding garden resembles paradise on earth. It is a unique man-made manifestation of the glorious age.

Every Friday Taj Mahal is closed so plan your visits as per.Rest of the days it is open from sunrise to sunset.Only 5 days a month the monument is open at night, on the full moon night and 2 days before and after that expect Friday.There are three gates to enter namely the Western gate, Eastern gate and Southern gate.The best time to travel Agra is during the winters as it has moderate temperature and clear weather.