Friday, July 25, 2008
July 20, 2008-(Sunday)-
On my final day in
July 19, 2008-(Saturday)-
I got up relatively early to get ready to go to
On the way to
The 4 hour drive to
- The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum located in Agra, India, that was built under Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The Taj Mahal (also "the Taj") is considered the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Persian, Turkish, Indian, and Islamic architectural styles. In 1983, the Taj Mahal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was cited as "the jewel of Muslim art in
and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage." While the white domed marble and tile mausoleum is most familiar, Taj Mahal is an integrated symmetric complex of structures that was completed around 1648. Ustad Ahmad Lahauri is generally considered to be the principal designer of the Taj Mahal The focus of the Taj Mahal is the white marble tomb, which stands on a square plinth consisting of a symmetrical building with an iwan, an arch-shaped doorway, topped by a large dome. Like most Mughal tombs, basic elements are Persian in origin. The base structure is a large, multi-chambered structure. The base is essentially a cube with chamfered edges and is roughly 55 meters on each side (see floor plan, right). On the long sides, a massive pishtaq, or vaulted archway, frames the iwan with a similar arch-shaped balcony. On either side of the main arch, additional pishtaqs are stacked above and below. This motif of stacked pishtaqs is replicated on chamfered corner areas as well. The design is completely symmetrical on all sides of the building. Four minarets, one at each corner of the plinth, facing the chamfered corners, frame the tomb. The main chamber houses the false sarcophagi of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan; their actual graves are at a lower level. The marble dome that surmounts the tomb is its most spectacular feature. Its height is about the same size as the base of the building, about 35 meters, and is accentuated as it sits on a cylindrical "drum" of about 7 metres high. Because of its shape, the dome is often called an onion dome (also called an amrud or guava dome). The top is decorated with a lotus design, which serves to accentuate its height as well. The shape of the dome is emphasised by four smaller domed chattris (kiosks) placed at its corners. The chattri domes replicate the onion shape of the main dome. Their columned bases open through the roof of the tomb and provide light to the interior. Tall decorative spires (guldastas) extend from edges of base walls, and provide visual emphasis to the height of the dome. The lotus motif is repeated on both the chattris and guldastas. The dome and chattris are topped by a gilded finial, which mixes traditional Persian and Hindu decorative elements. The main dome is crowned by a gilded spire or finial. The finial, made of gold until the early 1800s, is now made of bronze. The finial provides a clear example of integration of traditional Persian and Hindu decorative elements. The finial is topped by a moon, a typical Islamic motif, whose horns point heavenward. Because of its placement on the main spire, the horns of moon and finial point combine to create a trident shape, reminiscent of traditional Hindu symbols of Shiva. At the corners of the plinth stand minarets, the four large towers each more than 40 meters tall. The minarets display the Taj Mahal's penchant for symmetry. These towers are designed as working minarets, a traditional element of mosques as a place for a muezzin to call the Islamic faithful to prayer. Each minaret is effectively divided into three equal parts by two working balconies that ring the tower. At the top of the tower is a final balcony surmounted by a chattri that mirrors the design of those on the tomb. The minaret chattris share the same finishing touches, a lotus design topped by a gilded finial. Each of the minarets were constructed slightly outside of the plinth, so that in the event of collapse, a typical occurrence with many such tall constructions of the period, the material from the towers would tend to fall away from the tomb. The exterior decorations of the Taj Mahal are among the finest to be found in Mughal architecture. As the surface area changes, a large pishtaq has more area than a smaller one, and the decorations are refined proportionally. The decorative elements were created by applying paint or stucco, or by stone inlays or carvings. In line with the Islamic prohibition against the use of anthropomorphic forms, the decorative elements can be grouped into either calligraphy, abstract forms or vegetative motifs. The calligraphy found in Taj Mahal are of florid thuluth script, created by Persian calligrapher Amanat Khan, who signed several of the panels. The calligraphy is made by jasper inlaid in white marble panels, and the work found on the marble cenotaphs in the tomb is extremely detailed and delicate. Higher panels are written slightly larger to reduce the skewing effect when viewing from below. Throughout the complex, passages from the Qur'an are used as decorative elements. Recent scholarship suggests that Amanat Khan chose the passages as well. As one enters through Taj Mahal Gate, the calligraphy reads "O Soul, thou art at rest. Return to the Lord at peace with Him, and He at peace with you. Abstract forms are used especially in the plinth, minarets, gateway, mosque, jawab, and to a lesser extent, on the surfaces of the tomb. The domes and vaults of sandstone buildings are worked with tracery of incised painting to create elaborate geometric forms. On most joining areas, herringbone inlays define the space between adjoining elements. White inlays are used in sandstone buildings and dark or black inlays on the white marbles. Mortared areas of marble buildings have been stained or painted dark and thus creating geometric patterns of considerable complexity. Floors and walkways use contrasting tiles or blocks in tessellation patterns. Vegetative motifs are found at the lower walls of the tomb. They are white marble dados that have been sculpted with realistic bas relief depictions of flowers and vines. The marble has been polished to emphasize the exquisite detailing of these carvings. The dado frames and archway spandrels have been decorated with pietra dura inlays of highly stylized, almost geometric vines, flowers and fruits. The inlay stones are yellow marble, jasper and jade, leveled and polished to the surface of the walls. The interior chamber of the Taj Mahal steps far beyond traditional decorative elements. Here the inlay work is not pietra dura, but lapidary of precious and semiprecious gemstones. The inner chamber is an octagon with the design allowing for entry from each face, though only the south garden-facing door is used. The interior walls are about 25 meters high and topped by a "false" interior dome decorated with a sun motif. Eight pishtaq arches define the space at ground level. As with the exterior, each lower pishtaq is crowned by a second pishtaq about midway up the wall. The four central upper arches form balconies or viewing areas and each balcony's exterior window has an intricate screen or jali cut from marble. In addition to the light from the balcony screens, light enters through roof openings covered by chattris at the corners. Each chamber wall has been highly decorated with dado bas relief, intricate lapidary inlay and refined calligraphy panels, reflecting in miniature detail the design elements seen throughout the exterior of the complex. The octagonal marble screen or jali which borders the cenotaphs is made from eight marble panels. Each panel has been carved through with intricate pierce work. The remaining surfaces have been inlaid with semiprecious stones in extremely delicate detail, forming twining vines, fruits and flowers. Muslim tradition forbids elaborate decoration of graves and hence Mumtaz and Shah Jahan are laid in a relatively plain crypt beneath the inner chamber with their faces turned right and towards Mecca. Mumtaz Mahal's cenotaph is placed at the precise center of the inner chamber with a rectangular marble base of 1.5 meters by 2.5 meters. Both the base and casket are elaborately inlaid with precious and semiprecious gems. Calligraphic inscriptions on the casket identify and praise Mumtaz. On the lid of the casket is a raised rectangular lozenge meant to suggest a writing tablet. Shah Jahan's cenotaph is beside Mumtaz's to the western side. It is the only visible asymmetric element in the entire complex. His cenotaph is bigger than his wife's, but reflects the same elements: a larger casket on slightly taller base, again decorated with astonishing precision with lapidary and calligraphy that identifies Shah Jahan. On the lid of this casket is a traditional sculpture of a small pen box. The pen box and writing tablet were traditional Mughal funerary icons decorating men's and women's caskets respectively. Ninety Nine Names of God are to be found as calligraphic inscriptions on the sides of the actual tomb of Mumtaz Mahal, in the crypt including "O Noble, O Magnificent, O Majestic, O Unique, O Eternal, O Glorious... ". The tomb of Shah Jahan bears a calligraphic inscription that reads; "He traveled from this world to the banquet-hall of Eternity on the night of the twenty-sixth of the month of Rajab, in the year 1076 Hijri." The complex is set around a large 300-meter square charbagh, a Mughal garden. The garden uses raised pathways that divide each of the four quarters of the garden into 16 sunken parterres or flowerbeds. A raised marble water tank at the center of the garden, halfway between the tomb and gateway, with a reflecting pool on North-South axis reflects the image of the Taj Mahal. Elsewhere, the garden is laid out with avenues of trees and fountains. The raised marble water tank is called al Hawd al-Kawthar, in reference to "Tank of Abundance" promised to Muhammad. The charbagh garden, a design inspired by Persian gardens, was introduced to India by the first Mughal emperor Babur. It symbolizes four flowing rivers of Paradise and reflects the gardens of Paradise derived from the Persian paridaeza, meaning 'walled garden'. In mystic Islamic texts of Mughal period, paradise is described as an ideal garden of abundance with four rivers flowing from a central spring or mountain, separating the garden into north, west, south and east. Most Mughal charbaghs are rectangular with a tomb or pavilion in the center. The Taj Mahal garden is unusual in that the main element, the tomb, instead is located at the end of the garden. With the discovery of Mahtab Bagh or " India Moonlight Garden" on the other side of the Yamuna, Archaeological Survey of India interprets that the Yamuna itself was incorporated into the garden's design and was meant to be seen as one of the rivers of Paradise. The similarity in layout of the garden and its architectural features such as fountains, brick and marble walkways, and geometric brick-lined flowerbeds with Shalimar's suggest that the garden may have been designed by the same engineer, Ali Mardan. Early accounts of the garden describe its profusion of vegetation, including roses, daffodils, and fruit trees in abundance. As the Mughal Empire declined, the tending of the garden declined as well. When the British took over the management of Taj Mahal, they changed the landscaping to resemble that of lawns of London. The Taj Mahal complex is bounded by crenellated red sandstone walls on three sides with river-facing side open. Outside these walls are several additional mausoleums, including those of Shah Jahan's other wives, and a larger tomb for Mumtaz's favorite servant. These structures, composed primarily of red sandstone, are typical of the smaller Mughal tombs of the era. The garden-facing inner sides of the wall are fronted by columned arcades, a feature typical of Hindu temples later incorporated into Mughal mosques. The wall is interspersed with domed kiosks (chattris), and small buildings that may have been viewing areas or watch towers like the Music House, which is now used as a museum. The main gateway (darwaza) is a monumental structure built primarily of marble and is reminiscent of Mughal architecture of earlier emperors. Its archways mirror the shape of tomb's archways, and its pishtaq arches incorporate calligraphy that decorates the tomb. It utilizes bas-relief and pietra dura (inlaid) decorations with floral motifs. The vaulted ceilings and walls have elaborate geometric designs, like those found in the other sandstone buildings of the complex. At the far end of the complex, there are two grand red sandstone buildings that are open to the sides of the tomb. Their backs parallel western and eastern walls, and these two buildings are precise mirror images of each other. The western building is a mosque and its opposite is the jawab (answer) whose primary purpose was architectural balance and may have been used as a guesthouse. The distinctions between these two buildings include the lack of mihrab, a niche in a mosque's wall facing Mecca, in the jawab and that the floors of jawab have a geometric design, while the mosque floor was laid with outlines of 569 prayer rugs in black marble. The mosque's basic design is similar to others built by Shah Jahan, particularly to his Masjid-Jahan Numa, or Jama Masjid of , a long hall surmounted by three domes. The Mughal mosques of this period divide the sanctuary hall into three areas with a main sanctuary and slightly smaller sanctuaries on either side. At the Taj Mahal, each sanctuary opens onto an enormous vaulting dome. These outlying buildings were completed in 1643. The Taj Mahal was built on a parcel of land to the south of the walled city of Delhi . Shah Jahan presented Maharajah Jai Singh with a large palace in the center of Agra in exchange for the land. An area of roughly three acres was excavated, filled with dirt to reduce seepage and leveled at 50 meters above riverbank. In the tomb area, wells were dug and filled with stone and rubble as the footings of the tomb. Instead of lashed bamboo, workmen constructed a colossal brick scaffold that mirrored the tomb. The scaffold was so enormous that foremen estimated it would take years to dismantle. According to the legend, Shah Jahan decreed that anyone could keep the bricks taken from the scaffold, and thus it was dismantled by peasants overnight. A fifteen kilometer tamped-earth ramp was built to transport marble and materials to the construction site. Teams of twenty or thirty oxen were strained to pull blocks on specially constructed wagons. An elaborate post-and-beam pulley system was used to raise the blocks into desired position. Water was drawn from the river by a series of purs, an animal-powered rope and bucket mechanism, into a large storage tank and raised to large distribution tank. It was passed into three subsidiary tanks, from which it was piped to the complex. The plinth and tomb took roughly 12 years to complete. The remaining parts of the complex took an additional 10 years and were completed in order of minarets, mosque and jawab and gateway. Since the complex was built in stages, discrepancies exist in completion dates due to differing opinions on "completion". For example, the mausoleum itself was essentially complete by 1643, but work continued on the rest of the complex. Estimates of the cost of the construction of Taj Mahal vary due to difficulties in estimating construction costs across time. The total cost of construction has been estimated to be about 32 million Rupees at that time which now runs into trillions of Dollars if converted to present currency rates. The Taj Mahal was constructed using materials from all over Agra Indiaand Asia. Over 1,000 elephants were used to transport building materials during the construction. The translucent white marble was brought from Rajasthan, the jasper from Punjab, jade and crystal from China. The turquoise was from Tibet and the Lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, while the sapphire came from Sri Lanka and the carnelian from Arabia. In all, twenty eight types of precious and semi-precious stones were inlaid into the white marble. A labor force of twenty thousand workers was recruited across northern . Sculptors from Bukhara, calligraphers from Syria and India Persia, inlayer from southern India, stonecutters from Baluchistan, a specialist in building turrets, another who carved only marble flowers were part of the thirty-seven men who formed the creative unit.
I looked around for a taxi, but my guide said he had a taxi. I learned that this meant that he had a friend who had a taxi. He took me over to a rickshaw driven by a man I thought to be about 60. He was smoking and had a horrible cough. Once I got into his rickshaw I knew I’d made a mistake. While the other rickshaws and cars moved quickly along the road, mine puttered along seemingly on its last legs. Nevertheless, we got to the
While I was there I asked a man who was taking photos of his family if he would take a picture of me with my camera. He said yes, and took a few. While I was posing, his family moved in and wanted to be in my pictures! Of course I said it was fine. Then the man took some pictures of his family and me with his camera. I guess they were really fascinated by me, but I don’t know why. After the pictures one of the older women in the group asked me where I was from and if I was single. I said yes, I’m single and from
I thought I was in for a marriage proposal. We all laughed and I said goodbye and went on my way. Next stop--- India Gate!
When we arrived at the India Gate I was enthralled. Here was the same icon I saw on the internet weeks ago. I couldn’t believe I was actually here! Once there I met some girls from
We puttered over to the next monument, and on the way I took many pictures of the people on the streets. It was very interesting.
· Purana Qila, literally 'old fort' stands on an ancient mound. Excavations near its eastern wall reveal that the site has been continuously occupied since 1000 BC. It is also believed to be the place where Indraprastha, the Pandava capital mentioned in the epic Mahabharata, once stood. Purana Qila and its environs flourished as the sixth city of Delhi. It was here that Humayun, the second Mughal emperor began to construct his city, Dinpanah (Asylum of Faith), four years after his father Babur established the Mughal dynasty in 1526. However, Humayun's reign was short-lived and, in 1540 he was dispossessed of his fledgling empire by the Afghan chieftain, Sher Shah Suri who ruled from 1540 to 1545. When Sher Shah took possession of the citadel, he strengthened its fortifications, added several new structures and renamed it Shergarh. After his death, his successors were defeated by Humayun who recaptured his domains in 1555. Today, of the many palaces, barracks and houses that once existed only Sher Shah's mosque and the building said to be Humayun's library remain. The Yamuna once flowed on the fort's eastern side and formed a natural moat. The present entrance, an imposing red sandstone gate on the western wall called the Bara Darwaza (Main Gate) is one of the three principal gates of Shergarh. Its double-story facade, surmounted by chhatris and approached by a steep ramp, still displays traces of tiles and carved foliage. Humayun's Gate, on the southern wall, has an inscription bearing Sher Shah's name and the date 950 AH (1543-4 AD). To the north, the Taliqi Darwaza (Forbidden Gate) has carved reliefs and across the road is the red sandstone Lal Darwaza (Red Gate) or Sher Shah Gate, one of the entrances to the township that grew around the fort.
At this place I also met and talked with several people. I talked to Indian families traveling on holiday, people from
The ruins at Purana Qila were, like all the monuments thus far, incredible. Like in
On to the next stop, Humayun’s Tomb….
· This tomb, built in 1570, is of particular cultural significance as it was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent. It inspired several major architectural innovations, culminating in the construction of the Taj Mahal. The construction of Humayun's tomb was taken up by the grief-stricken wife of Humayun, Hamida Banu, also known as Bega Begam in 1565. Legend has it that the design of the Taj was inspired from this tomb's. In pure architectural sense, this building is probably superior and much more beautiful that the stunning Taj. Sacrilege? But really, the only thing this building lacks is the showy marble.
The complex took nine years to complete and the tomb itself is a dazzling landmark in the evolution of Mughal architecture in
This complex was incredible. Sad that such a beautiful structure was just a place for bones to be stored. This would have made a beautiful palace in my opinion, or even a village or market or temple, or something useful. I took many pictures.
It was close to 6pm when we made our way to the last stop, the
- The Bahá'í House of Worship in Delhi, India, popularly known as the
Lotus Temple, is a Bahá'í House of Worship and also a prominent attraction in . It was completed in 1986 and serves as the Delhi of the Indian subcontinent. It has won numerous architectural awards and been featured in hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles. Inspired by the lotus flower, its design is composed of 27 free-standing marble clad "petals" arranged in clusters of three to form nine sides. The architect was an Iranian, who now lives in Canada, named Fariborz Sahba. The major part of the funds needed to buy this land was donated by Ardishír Rustampúr of Hyderabad, who gave his entire life savings for this purpose in 1953. Nine doors open onto a central hall, capable of holding up to 2,500 people. Slightly more than 40 meters tall, its surface shining white marble, the temple at times seems to float above its 26 acre (105,000 m²; 10.5 ha) nine surrounding ponds. The site is in the Mother Temple , in the National Capital Territory of Delhi. Since its inauguration to public worship in December 1986, the Bahá'í House of Worship in New Delhi has, as of late 2002, attracted more than 50 million visitors, making it one of the most visited buildings in the world.  Its numbers of visitors during those years surpassed those of the Eiffel Tower and the Taj Mahal. On Hindu holy days, it has drawn as many as 150,000 people; it welcomes four million visitors each year (about 13,000 every day or 9 every minute). villageof Bahapur
This temple is a modern structure built by the
I got back to the flat, and the cook had prepared dinner for me. It was delicious. I felt a bit guilty that he had to cook for me alone, but I was paying for this after all, and it is his job. I ate, took a cold shower, and went to sleep. Tomorrow I go to
Sunday, July 20, 2008
July 18, 2008-(Friday)-
Today, since I have the whole day in
· The largest of old Delhi's monuments is the Lal Quila, or the Red Fort, the thick red sandstone walls of which, bulging with turrets and bastions, have withstood the vagaries of time, and nature. The Lal Quila rises above a wide dry moat, in the northeast corner of the original city of
I took many pictures here, and all I can say is that the structure is incredible ! At first I was surprised at how many Indians were there, but then I realized that this would be the equivalent of Americans visiting
It is SO much hotter here in
After the Red Fort, I looked for the next site, which was Jama Masjid, a Moslem Mosque. I made the mistake of asking someone where it was and a man came to me and said he was a guide. I told him I didn’t want a guide, only directions as I knew the Mosque was within walking distance. He was insistent and kept following me. Then he said he didn’t want any money, he would do it free. Although I knew he would want money in the end, I let him show me around a bit as I knew I could give him a few rupees at the end and he would be happy. First, I told him I needed to find a bank. I needed to get a cash advance off my Visa card. I have NO idea where my Bank of America, temporary card is. I didn’t get my new card in the mail before I had to leave for
Finally we made it to the mosque. There were steep steps going up to it. I had to leave my shoes outside and wear a makeshift skirt (they gave this to westerners at the entrance) in order to enter the mosque as my ankles and calves were showing – I was wearing
· The Masjid-i-Jahan Numa, commonly known as the Jama Masjid of
Inside, again I was struck by the beautiful architecture. I saw the Moslem women all in black with only their eyes showing. I can only imagine how hot they felt, I was dripping with sweat. I understand modesty, but to not be able to even show one’s face ! This seems crazy to me.
After taking MORE pictures, I went to get a taxi to take me to my next destination, the
To be continued….
July 17, 2008-(Thursday)-
Like every day since I arrived in Palumpur, I awakened to the sound of singing birds. As this is my last day, I tried to savor it. I drank Chai for the last time. I ate mangos, and scrambled Indian-spiced eggs.
The last day with the kids at Gyan Deep was great. We rigged up a make-shift video and the kids loved it. They were able to see for the first time, parts of the world that they only had labels for. Shri took pictures of each student and told me that he is going to put together a web page for the school. How cool is that? If this doesn’t motivate the teachers and principal, I don’t know what will! I will continue to see what I can do as far as getting a grant for them. When I started saying good-bye, the kids were coming over to get pictures and hugs. It was difficult. I gave them all copies of my address and told them to write to me. As I was walking down the hill, one boy stopped me and gave me a letter he’d wrote to me. In the letter he said that he wants to be a doctor. Could I send him some books? He would also like pictures of the ocean as he has never seen it and heard me talk about it. In my heart I promised myself that I would definitely get some books sent to him. Who knows, maybe I will return to
July 16, 2008-(Wednesday)-
Today was WONDERFUL ! We gave the kids the map of the world which didn’t have the labels on it. We wanted to see if they remembered much from yesterday. A few remembered the continents, which was a start. The problem is that they knew the names of the continents, but they didn’t know where they were! I couldn’t believe that some of them couldn’t find
After lunch, I went to the tailor’s to pick up my new PJs. They came out perfectly. Then I went back to the house to take a little nap. After about 1 hour, Gee-too called me and told me it was time to go to the dentist to get my crown put on. Dr. Singh was wonderful. The crown fit perfectly and as I looked in the mirror, you could hardly tell the crown from the other teeth. I talked to Dr. Singh for a while. It was his family who donated the land for Gyan Deep. His family also owns the Tea plantation we visited. Dr. Singh has developed a non-profit organization and wants to help more schools like Gyan Deep. We talked a bit about it and I hope that someday I can come back to
Once back from the dentist, I went to see Pooja. I think I am finally getting immune to the sound of honking horns. Here in
July 15, 2008-(Tuesday)-
Today was our first day of summer camp with the kids at Gyan Deep. I really had a lot of fun and the new group of volunteers is so nice, I made friends immediately. My roommate is Tatiana. She is from
I was so surprised in the class today. We were teaching the kids geography, and we asked them to name the continents. I couldn’t believe that they couldn’t even name the continents ! These are 9th graders and up ! I couldn’t help but think how small their world is. When I was in 4th or 5th grade I remember seeing a map of the world and thinking “I want to go to all those places!”. I felt so sad for them because I knew that most of them would never leave Palumpur. For these children who have never been taught to ask questions, we opened the world up to them. Once they realized that they wouldn’t get punished for guessing, they asked a million questions! I was so excited! Here we were, making a small, but significant difference! After school was over, Shri, Brian, Mifa, and I thought about how we could teach them more and put together a miniature “smart classroom”. I am having so much fun with the new volunteers that I don’t want to leave. I asked Juggy if I can fly to
Thursday, July 17, 2008
July 14, 2008-(Monday)-
Today we went to the school only for an hour or so. Since the regular school year is over, we will be starting a summer camp for the kids tomorrow. Today we went to just drop off a few things. After this I was dropped off at Dr. Singh’s so that he could remove the temporary crown and make a mold for the new one. His office looked like any other office in the
The ceremony began late because the mayor was late arriving. Because of this I missed my meeting with Dietland and Rootie. Instead, I rode back to Palumpur with some of the new group. I had fun talking to them. One thing I did realize is that I am in a totally different socio-economic level from most of these volunteers. Shri Rom is an executive for Intel, his wife Usha has a PhD in biochemistry and works for a pharmaceutical company. Miffa’s parents are wealthy and she has attended boarding schools and her parents gave her this trip for Christmas! Most of the young people who came with this group have parents who are paying their trip expenses and a few of them are going to some really interesting colleges. One lives in the