Sanchi Buddhist Complex – A legacy of the Maurya era

Sanchi Buddhist complex, famous for its great stupa at Sanchi, is located in the Indian State of Madhya Pradesh. Commissioned by emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE, the Great Stupa of Sanchi is one of the oldest stone structures in India. The stupa was built over the relics of Buddha. The original construction work of this stupa was overseen by Ashoka, whose wife Devi was the daughter of a merchant of nearby Vidisha. Sanchi was also her birthplace as well as the venue of her marriage with Ashoka. In the first century BCE, four elaborately carved toranas (gateways) and balustrade encircling the entire structure were added.

The stupa may have been vandalized in the 2nd century BCE during the rise of the Shunga emperor Pushyamitra Shunga, who overtook the Maurya Empire and was believed to be rebuilt by his son Agnimitra. The original brick stupa was covered with stone during the Shunga period. During the later Shunga period the stupa was expanded with stone slabs to almost twice its original size. The dome was set on a high circular drum meant for circumambulation, which could be accessed via a double staircase. A second stone pathway at ground level was enclosed by a stone balustrade with four monumental gateways facing the cardinal directions. Other structures which were commissioned during the Shunga period are the second and third stupas.

In the first century BCE, during the Satavahana period the gateways were constructed. Further Buddhist structures were added over the centuries until the 12th century AD. Temple 17 is attached to the Gupta period (5th century CE). This structure consists of a flat roofed square sanctum with a portico and four pillars.

Temple 45 was the last Buddhist temple built during the 9th century. With the decline of Buddhism in India the monuments of Sanchi went out of use and fell into a state of despair. Between 1912 and 1919 the structures were restored to their preset condition under the supervision of Sir Johns Marshall.

The stupas of Sanchi
The great stupa with the northern gateway
A closer view of the northern gateway
Details – the dvarapala from the gateway
Rear view of the northern gateway
More details from the gateway
The eastern gateway of the great Stupa
More details from the gateway
Another view of the great stupa
The balustrade of the great stupa and the eastern gateway
Another view of the balustrade
Stupa no.3
Sculptural details from Sanchi
Sculptural details from Sanchi
Sculptural details from Sanchi
Sculptural details from Sanchi
Sculptural details from Sanchi
Sculptural details from Sanchi
Ruins around the area
Sculptural details from Sanchi
Sculptural details from Sanchi
Sculptural details from Sanchi
More ruins around the area
Temple No.18 at sanchi
More ruins around
Temple No.17 at Sanchi
Sculptural details from Sanchi
Sculptural details from Sanchi
The Ashokan pillar, which was reduced to pieces by a local zamindar
Details from the pillar
An inscription
View of the surrounding fields from the top
View of the surrounding fields from the top
The stupa at sunset
Sun setting behind the ruins

Today around fifty monuments remain on the hill of Sanchi. These monuments have been listed among UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1989.

Ahmedabad declared India’s first world heritage city by UNESCO – Proud moment for every Indian

Recognizing its unique heritage value, the walled city of Ahmedabad which is more than 600 years old was declared India’s first World Heritage City by UNESCO. This historic declaration was issued at the 41st session the UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee meeting in Krakow, Poland on Saturday July 08, 2017.

Ahmedabad’s nomination was supported by 20 countries, including Turkey, Lebanon, Tunisia, Portugal, Peru Kazakhstan, Vietnam, Finland, Azerbaijan, Jamaica, Croatia, Poland, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, South Korea, Angola and Cuba.

The 5.5 km walled city area with an approximate population of four lakhs living in century old wooden residences in around 600 pols or neighbourhoods, is regarded as living heritage and the UNESCO had preferred Ahmedabad’s entry over Delhi and Mumbai, the two main metro cities in the country.

There are 2600 heritage sites and over two dozen ASI (Archeological Survey of India) protected monuments in the walled city. In the walled city the dominant Hindu, Islamic and Jain communities peacefully coexists. Besides its architectural marvels, the city was the epic center of non-violent freedom struggle spear-headed by Mahatma Gandhi that led to the country’s independence in 1947.

Other cities from the subcontinent which hold the world heritage tag are Bhaktpur in Nepal and Galle in Sri Lanka.

You can read more about the city of Ahmedabad from the links below:

Ahmedabad – Part I : Bhadra Fort and Teen Darwaza

Ahmedabad – Part II : The Pols and Havelis

Ahmedabad – Part III : The Swaminarayan Temple at Kalupur

Ahmedabad – Part IV: The Hutheesing Jain Temple

Ahmedabad – Part V: Jama Masjid & Mausoleums

Ahmedabad – Part VI: Sidi Saiyyed Mosque

Ahmedabad – Part VII: Rani Rupamati’s Mosque

Ahmedabad – Part VIII: Rani Sipri’s Mosque and Tomb

Ahmedabad – Part IX: The Pattharwali Masjid or Qutbuddin’s Mosque

Ahmedabad – Part X: Sidi Bashir Mosque and the Shaking Minarets

Ahmedabad – Part XI: Raj Babri Mosque and the Mausoleum of Bibiji

Ahmedabad – Part XII: Kankaria Lake and the Dutch Tombs

Ahmedabad – Part XIII: Dada Hari Vav

Ahmedabad – Part XIV: Sabarmati Ashram

Jai Vilas Palace Museum – The grandeur of the Scindias of Gwalior

Jai Vilas Palace, also known as Jai Vilas Mahal is located in the city of Gwalior in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. The palace was established by Jayajirao Scindia, the Maharaja of Gwalior in 1874 and is still the residence of his descendants, the former royal Maratha Scindia dynasty. A part of this palace was converted into a museum in 1964 which occupies 35 rooms of the palace.

It is a fine example of European architecture, designed and built by Sir Michael Filose. A combination of architectural styles, the first storey is Tuscan, the second Italian-Doric and the third Corinthian. The area of the Jai Vilas Palace is 12,40,771 square feet and it is particularly famous for its large Durbar Hall. The interior of the Durbar Hall is decorated with gilt and gold furnishings and adorned with a huge carpet and gigantic chandeliers. It is 100 feet long, 50 feet wide and 41 feet in height.

Supposedly, eight elephants were suspended from the Durbar Hall ceiling to check it could cope with two 12.5 m high 3.5 ton chandeliers with 250 light bulbs, said to be the largest pair in the world.

A visit to the palace makes you explore the royal times of the Maratha Scindia dynasty and will help you to flip back the pages of luxurious lifestyle of the kings and queens of those times. Items like cut-glass furniture, stuffed tigers etc. are exhibited in the museum.

The main entrance of the palace
One of the fountains inside the forecourt of the palace
Entrance to the museum
Some of the exhibits
Some of the exhibits
One of the exhibits from the museum
Some of the exhibits
Some of the exhibits
Various musical instruments
Some of the exhibits
Skull of a wild buffalo
One of the stuffed tigers exhibited in the museum
One of the chandeliers
Some of the exhibits
The traditional dining area
Dining area for the visiting dignitaries
Inside the palace
Beautifully adorned staircase
The durbar hall with the huge chandeliers
One of the chandeliers in the durbar hall
Durbar hall
One of the exhibits
This area is dedicated for exhibiting the life and times of Madhavrao Scindia the son of the last ruling maharaja and leading politician and congress minister who died in a plane crash on 30 Sep 2001

Bidar Fort – The erstwhile capital of the Bahmani Kingdom

Bidar Fort is situated in Bidar city of the Indian state of Karnataka. Originally built in the 8th century, the old fort of Bidar was captured in 1321-22 AD by Prince Ulugh Khan of the Tughlaq dynasty, who later on became Sultan Muhammad bin Tughluq of Delhi. With the establishment of the Bahmani Sultanate in 1347, Bidar was occupied by Sultan Alauddin Bahman Shah. During the rule of Ahmad Shah I (1422-1486), Bidar was made the capital of Bahmani Kingdom. He rebuilt the old fort and erected beautiful madrasas, mosques and palaces inside it. Long and winding fort walls were constructed out of stone and mortar by Persian and Turkish architects.

Bidar fort was captured by the independent Bijapur Sultanate in 1619-20 but fell to the Mughal viceroy Aurangzeb in 1657, and was formally absorned by the Mughal Empire in 1686. In 1724 Bidar became part of the Asaf Jahi Kingdom of the Nizams. Nawab Mir Said Muhammad Khan, also known as Salabath Jung, who was the third son of Asaf Jah I ruled from Bidar fort from 1751 to 1762, till his brother Mir Nizam Ali Khan also known as Asaf Jah II, imprisoned him and later killed him in the fort on 16th September 1763. The old name of Bidar “Mohammedabad” refers to the rule of Salabath Jung. In 1956 when the state of Hyderabad was partitioned, Bidar fort became part of the newly formed Mysore state, now Karnataka.

The Bidar fort was constructed on the edge of a plateau and has a haphazard rhombus-shaped layout. The present day fortress was rebuilt using red laterite stone around the old fort in 1428 by Ahmed Shah Bahman. The fort is 1.21 km long and 0.80 km in breadth. The fort walls measure 2.5 km on the outside and include within numerous buildings, arches, pavilions, mosques, gateways and gardens. To the north and east, steep cliffs provide natural protection to the moat and the glacis elsewhere, the walls are protected by a unique tripe channeled moat. There were seven gates to the Fort.

There are 37 bastions on the fort walls, with cannon made of bars of metal welded together and held together by metal hoops were mounted on the bastions. The fort has number of monuments within the fortress complex. Prominent among them are the Rangin Mahal, Takht Mahal, the Jami masjid and the Sola Khamba Masjid (Sixteen pillar mosque). Most of these structures are in ruins now.

The spiked doors of the Bidar fort
Another gate of the Bidar Fort
An arched door inside the fort
The triple moat of Bidar fort
Another arched gate inside the fort
Inside the fort – ruins
Inside the fort
One of the buildings inside the fort
More structures inside the fort
Fort interior
The dome of the Sola Khamba Masjid
Arched gateways inside the fort
More ruins inside the fort
The steep cliff at the north end
More structures inside the fort
One of the arched gateways inside the fort
One of the bastions and the moat below
Inside the fort

How to reach:
Bidar railway station is well connected with the rest of the country.

Bidar is well connected with the nearby cities by a network of buses by both Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation and private buses. Hyderabad is 147 kms from Bidar.

Mirjan Fort – An architectural wonder in laterite stone

The Mirjan Fort is located on the west coast of the Indian state of Karnataka. The fort was built in the 16th century by Queen Chennabhairadevi of Gersoppa. She ruled for 54 years and also lived in the fort. During her reign the port at Mirjan was used for shipping pepper, saltpetre (Potassium nitrate) and betel nut to Surat. The fort known for its architectural elegance, was the location for several battles in the past.

In 1757 the Marathas had seized the Mirjan Fort. The event that led to the capture of the fort was due to the death of Basappa Naik, the last ruler of Bednur, in 1755. His wife has taken control, representing her 17 year old adopted son, Chanbasaviah. Since her adopted son opposed her taking a “paramour”, she got him murdered. This had resulted in a revolt by the agitated local people, and taking advantage of the situation the Marathas had captured the fort.

You can see both Portuguese and Islamic influences in the fort’s construction. The fort’s round bastions, for example, are typical of Indian forts built by Islamic rulers. The single tall square lookout tower along the southern wall is characteristic of Portuguese military architecture of 1500s.

The fort is located on the bank of the Aganashini River. The mouth of the river is 12 km from the Mirjan village. The fort was built over an area of 10 acres with laterite stone. It has high walls and bastions. The fort has four entrances (one main and three subsidiary entrances) and many wells, which are interlinked and with access channels leading to the circular moat (used as defense measure to protect the fort) that once fully surrounded the fort, and leading to the canal works outside the fort’s limits. At each entrance, there are wide steps to enter the fort. The fort which was mostly in ruins was recently restored by the Archaeological department.

One of the bastions of the fort
The laterite built high walls and the bastions
Some of the excavated items scattered around this tree inside the fort
Inside the fort – gracing cattle
The wonderful view around the fort
The wonderful view around the fort
This part of the fort are still in ruins
One of the many wells inside the fort
Steps towards the well
The view of Aganashini River from the fort
Interior view of the fort
The prayer hall inside the fort
The watch tower and the flag hoisting tower inside the fort
Fort interior view
The round bastion and walls
The walls made in laterite stone
Fort interior view
One of the entrances
A secret path inside the fort
More views
More views

During the year 2000-01, ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) carried out excavations in the precincts of the fort. Antiquarian findings also included a gold coin minted in 1652 with inscriptions that attribute it to the Portuguese Viceroy Conde De Sarzedas during the reign of Joao IV, cannon balls, Chinese porcelain, clay tablets with Islamic inscriptions. Seven dumb-bells, 50 iron bullets, coins and designed earth pots belonging to Sarpmallika dynasty were also found during the excavations at the fort.

How to Reach:
It is about half a km from the National Highway 17 and 11 km from Gokarna, the Hindu pilgrimage center on the west coast of India.

Lonar Crater Lake – The only meteorite lake in the country

Lonar Lake is a saline soda lake located at Lonar in the Buldhana district of Indian state of Maharashtra. It was created by meteor impact during the Pleistocene epoch and is the only known hyper velocity impact crater in basaltic rock anywhere on earth. Researchers believe that meteor of about 60 meter diameter and weighing a million tones in the form of a stone had struck the earth at 20km/sec high velocity creating tremendous energy & heat and a cloud of molten ash and dust. It resulted in the destruction of neighbouring flora and fauna. The explosion was equivalent to that of a 6 megaton bomb. The meteor is believed to have been buried 600 meter below the crater level. The impacting crater struck at an acute angle from the northern side and thus the walls of crater slope gently over here. Rest everywhere, an uniform slope of 26 degrees is present.

The lake has a mean diameter of 1.2 kilometeres and is about 137 meters below the crater rim. The crater rim is about 1.8 kilometeres in diameter. The crater’s age is usually estimated to be 52,000 ± 6000 years.

The forest department have planted different species of plants inside the rim of the lake, which gives an exotic experience to the visitors. It is home to many birds and animals. Near the crater around the margin of the lake, there are a number of temples which are mostly in ruins. These temples were believed to have been built during the 12th and 13th centuries. Some of these temples were constructed during the Yadava period.

View of the Lonar crater lake from near the MTDC Guest House
The trail around the lake through the vegetation
Another view of the lake
The trail around the lake through the vegetation
A red-wattled lapwig in the lake
Black-winged stilts in the lake
Ducks inside the lake
Black-winged stilts in the lake
I encountered this bulbul during my trail around the lake
Ruins of the temple around the lake
More ruins
Around the lake
Ruins of the temple around the lake
Anther view of the lake
Ruins of the temple around the lake
The trail around the lake through the vegetation
Trees around the lake
Ruins of the temple around the lake
Ruins of the temple around the lake
Ruins of the temple around the lake
Ruins of the temple around the lake
Ruins of the temple around the lake
More ruins

Gomukh Temple needs a special mention due to the perennial stream which emerges from here; the source of which is yet to be identified. The pilgrims, visiting the temple takes a bath in this water.

Steps towards the Gomukh temple
The perennial stream inside the Gomukh temple
Gomukh temple
MTDC Guest House
MTDC Guest House

The Lonar Lake was mentioned in many ancient scriptures such as Skanda Purana, the Padma Purana and the Ain-i-Akbari. The first European to visit the lake was British officer, J E Alexander in 1823.

Ambar Lake
Not far from the Lonar lake is a small lake called Ambar Lake which is believed to be caused by a splinter of the meteor that created the Lonar crater lake.

Ambar Lake

Daitya Sudan Temple

One should not miss the mighty Daitya Sudan Temple with its impressive stone works located at the centre of the Lonar town, a kilometre away from the lake. This is a Vishnu temple dated to the Chalukya Dynasty which ruled central and Southern India between 6th and 12th centuries. It belongs to the Hemadpanthi style of architecture. It features carvings similar to those seen at Khajuraho temples. The diety of this temple is made of an ore with a high metal content that resembles stone. The exterior walls are also covered with carved figures. The plinth of the temple is about 1.5 m in height and the unfinished roof suggests an intended pyramidal for the tower.

The temple receive its name from its connection with the story of the demon Lavanasura or Lonasura who used to dwell in the crater close by and who was eventually slain by Vishnu in his incarnation as Daitya Sudan.

The temple measures 105 feet long by 84 feet wide and is with three chambers. The inner most chamber is garbh gruha, the sanctum sanctorum, where the idol of Lord Vishnu standing atop Lavanasur is present.

Daitya Sudan Temple
The main entrance of the temple
The idol of lord Vishnu standing atop Lavanasur
Architectural details of the temple
Architectural details of the temple
Architectural details of the temple
Architectural details of the temple
Architectural details of the temple
Architectural details of the temple

How to reach:
Lonar is easily accessible from Mumbai via Jalna. Jalna station lies on the Mumbai-Nanded railway line. There are frequent bus services available from Jalna to Lonar which is about 90km less than 3 hours.

The MTDC guest house is located very close to the crater lake is the best option for accommodation. The guest house also provides one of the best views of the lake.

Sarkhej Roza – “Acropolis of Ahmedabad”

Sarkhej Roza is located 8 km southwest of the city of Ahmedabad in the Indian state of Gujarat. This mosque and tomb complex is known as “Acropolis of Ahmedabad”, due to 20th century architect Le Corbusier’s famous comparison of this mosque’s design to the Acropolis of Athens.

Sarkhej was once a prominent centre of Sufi culture in the country and is where the influential Sufi saint Shaikh Ahmed Khattu Ganj Baksh lived. The architecture of this complex is credited to the Persian brothers Azam and Muazzam Khan. The complex was originally spread over 72 acres, surrounded by elaborate gardens on all sides. Over time human settlements came around it, eating into the gardens and reducing the area to 34 acres.

Shaikh Ahmed Khattu Ganj Bakhsh the friend and advisor of Ahmed Shah I, retired to Sarkhej in his later life and died here in 1445. In his honour, a tomb was constructed by Ahmed Shah II. The construction of the tomb was begun in 1445 and was finished in 1451. The next sultan Mahmud Begada was fond of the place and expanded the complex greatly. He dug a large lake, surrounded it with cut stone steps and built a splendid palace on its south-west corner. He also raised a mausoleum for himself and his family opposite to Ganj Baksh’s tomb.

Main Entrance to Sarkhej Roza
The Tomb of Shaikh Ahmed Khattu Ganj Bakhsh
The details of the jali work on the Tomb
More details
The Jalis seen from inside
The Tomb – interior
The Tomb – interior
The mausoleum of Muhamad Begada and family members

There is a sixteen pillared structure popularly known as Baradari is situated in the central portion of the open courtyard and is seen when we enter the main gate of the Roza. There is a folklore which says that the excavation of the lake and the building of the Jama masjid in its initial states were supervised by Shaikh Ahmed Khattu himself from the Baradari.

The Baradari

Beyond the Mausoleum of Ganj Bakhsh is a courtyard, covering more than an acre of ground, surrounded by cloisters, is a huge mosque. The other side of the lake on the south-west corner are Mahmud Begada’s palace and harem.

The Mosque
The Mosque – Details
The huge courtyard in front of the Mosque
The Mosque – details

The Mosque – details
The Lake

The structures around the lake
The structures around the lake
The structures around the lake
The lake and the structures
The structures around the lake

Like many of Ahmedabad’s structures the architecture of Sarkhej Roza is a combination of elements of Hindu and Islamic design. Most of the buildings do not have arches and depend on pierced stone trellises for stability.