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August - September 2006
India - Land of Plenty
India will celebrate its 60th year of Independence on 15th August 2006 with great
pomp and show up and down the country. Many organisations abroad will also
be celebrating. The event is marked here through a few sketches and photographs
of some of the fascinating and attractive places which illustrate the country’s
natural beauty, grandeur and architectural heritage. First, here are some
striking and glorifying facts of India – a Land of Plenty, in each
and every way:
Naturally, with all these facts, India is a land of vivid and vibrant colourful traditions, exotic mixed cultures, various languages and spirituality. Major cities and towns are bustling, but away from the commercial centres India possesses plenty of areas of rich and spectacular natural beauty: mountains, beaches, deserts and wildlife national reserves.
Let me now take you through this panoramic sketch of the natural and the architectural places of India. Starting with the majestic Himalayas, they stand proud in the North. Nestled in the middle of the mountainous ranges is a divine journey through Yamunotri (source of River Yamuna), Gangotri (source of River Ganges), Kedar Nath and Badrinath. These are popularly known as ‘Char Dhams’. Approach to these places is normally through Haridwar and Rishikesh, both holy cities, which are famous for ashrams to learn meditation and Yoga and gain Nirwana in the process.
Top of the menu of the architectural feast, at least for me is the eighth wonder of the world, timeless and the Jewel of Jewels: the Taj Mahal, in Agra. This magnificent Moghul mausoleum was built in white marble with inlay work of precious stones, by Emperor Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. This is the most extravagant and beautiful expression of one man’s love for his wife.
Delhi, an imperial city has been the capital for many rulers and therefore has the fort, palaces and tombs together with New Delhi, planned from India Gate to the Parliament, Presidential Palace and beyond by the English Architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. The Bahai Temple and the recently constructed Swaminarayn Temple are amongst important landmarks in the city.
Indian National Flower is the Lotus or water Lily, an aquatic plant.
The name of three major Cities of Rajasthan, incidentally or coincidentally starts with the letter ‘J’ and they are Jaipur, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer. All cities display the courage and characteristics of the rulers who promoted art and architecture to celebrate their successes. Jaipur was perhaps, the first planned city in India. It had everthing needed for the community to survive and it was constructed within the boundaries of the city’s gated walls. Whilst Jaipur is known as the Pink City as it is constructed in red sand stone, many buildings of the historic city of Jodhpur have a light blue hue. Jaisalmer hill fort and town appears to float in the vast Thar Desert. It has become famous in the past few decades for its fort and richly carved and imposing merchant’s houses, popularly known as ‘havelies’.
India there are many marvellous places of interest e.g the Ajanta and Ellora
Caves near Aurangabad, Bandhavgarh and Kanha National Parks, Bhubaneshwar
and Konarak etc. However, there is a special place which may be second to
Taj Mahal from the tourist’s point of view, but if considered on its
architectural merits it is perhaps on equal footings - it is the complex
of temples at Khajraho, a World Heritage Site, in the State of Madhya Pradesh.
Out of eighty- five original temples only twenty survive today. These 9th
to 12th century temples, of the Chandela Dynasty have elegant proportions,
and their construction incorporates intricately and exquisitely carved sculptures
as decorations on their exteriors and interiors. The sculptures depict and
revel in every aspect of life in particular passion and erotic fantasy. The
visual experience of the temples exceeds expectations.
I have been to India many times and have visited many places of interest, either as a tourist or as a pilgrim. All the time I was fascinated and each visit gave me memories which have lasted till today and hope will last for a life time. But there is too much to see and I shall visit some of the remaining parts in due course.