Nagaur Fort, locally known as Ahhichatragarh (fort of the hooded cobra) is one of the finest examples of Rajput-Mughal architecture. It was one of the first Muslim strongholds in northern India. The fort was originally constructed by Nagavanshis in 2nd century and later renovated by Mohammed Bahlim, a governor of the Ghaznivids. The fort was rebuilt in the early 12th century and altered repeatedly over the centuries. It witnessed many battles. The fort underwent major renovations in 2007. The fort was shortlisted in the contender list for the “Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2013”. This award is bestowed in credit of architectural superiority in the area of historic safeguarding, reprocess, area maintenance and landscape design and enhancement of the surroundings.
The Nagaur fort has three entrance doors. First one was “Sireh Pole”, made of iron and wood spikes to guard against elephant charges and enemy attacks. The second gate is called “Beech ka Pole” and the last one is “Kacheri Pol”. The fort contains many palaces like Deepak Mahal, Hadi Rani Mahal, Akbari Mahal, Bakht Singh Palace, Rani Mahal and Amar Sing Mahal. The fort also contains many fountains, temples, reservoirs, open terraces and beautiful gardens that dates back to the ancient Mughal era. Several delicate portraits embellish numerous ceilings and walls of the places.
Hadi Rani Mahal is the most marvellously adorned palaces of the fort. It has brilliantly engraved designs throughout its ceilings and walls. The legendary character Hadi Rani was the the daughter of Hada Rajput Chundawat Chieftain of Salumbar Mewar who sacrificed herself to motivate her husband to go to the war. When Maharana Raj Singh I (1653-1680) of Mewar called his son to join the battle against Aurangzeb, the Sardar having married only a few days earlier hesitated about going into battle. He asked his wife Hadi Rani for some memento to take with him to the battlefield.
Thinking that she was an obstacle to his doing his duty for Mewar, she cut off her head and put it on a plate in her dying moments. A servant covered it with a cloth and presented it to her husband. The Sardar, devastated but nevertheless proud, tied the memento around his neck by its hair. He fought bravely, making the Aurangzeb forces flee, and after his victory, he got to his knees and cut his neck, having lost the desire to live.
Nagaur lies between Bikaner and Jodhpur. Jodhpur to Nagaur is 140 km and Bikaner to Nagaur is 114 km.
Dahi Handi is a famous sportive event organized in many places of Maharashtra on the next day of Janmashtami. Janmashtami, is an annual festival that celebrates the birth of Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu. It is observed according to Hindu calendar, on the eighth day of the dark fortnight in the month of Shraavana, which corresponds to August and September months of the Gregorian calendar.
Dahi Handi celebration commemorates the way of living of Lord Krishna. Dahi translates to curd and Handi translates to earthen pot used to process and keep the milk products. In his childhood, young Krishna was very fond of curd and butter. While growing up he became notorious for stealing it. The female folks in the neighborhood became cautious and started hanging the milk products from the ceiling to keep them out of reach of Krishna and his friends. To defeat this idea Krishna devised the idea of forming human pyramids, by which they could reach the Handi.
Every year during Janmashtami this event from the life of Krishna is played by youngsters. In Mumbai and suburbs it has become a competitive sport, with participation of many teams. In the recent years, female teams have also started to participate in the event. These sporting events, often carries prize money with the support of local political parties and leaders. These team’s youth called ‘Govindas’ climb one over another and form a human pyramid and then break the Handi.
This temple is located in the Bhojpur village in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. The temple construction was started in the 11th century, during the reign of Paramara king Bhoja. The construction was abandoned for unknown reasons, with the architectural plans engraved on the surrounding rocks.
It appears that the construction work stopped abruptly due to unknown reasons. Historians speculate that the abandonment may have been triggered by a sudden natural disaster, lack of resources or a war. To the north and east of the temple, there are several quarry sites, where unfinished architectural fragments in various stages of carving were discovered.
The temple lies on a platform which is 35m long, 25m wide and 4m high. A huge limestone lingam is installed on the platform. The total height of the lingam, including the platform is over 12m. The doorway to the sanctum is 10m high. The wall at the entrance features sculptures of apsaras, ganas and other goddesses. The temple walls are made of large sandstone blocks, without windows. The northern, southern and eastern walls of the temple, features three balconies, purely for ornamental purpose. They cannot be approached from either inside or outside of the temple, because they are located high up on the walls, which provided a drainage outlet for the liquid used to bathe the lingam.
In the year 1951, the site was handed over to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for conservation. Under the supervision of ASI, the restoration of the damaged temple was taken place and the temple has been designated as a Monument of National Importance.
Vidisha is located 10km northeast of Sanchi, between Betwa and Bes Rivers. It was one of the oldest cities in the Indian subcontinent and was a major commercial centre in the 5th and 6th centuries BC. Later it was known as Besnagar during the Buddhist emperor Ashoka’s reign and then passed through the hands of the Mughals and then to the Scindias. There are few important monuments located near this town.
Bijamandal, which is popularly known as Vijayamandira is Temple built during the Paramara period in the eleventh century and is located at the eastern edge of the old town of Vidisha. The temple was destroyed in the year 1682. After its demolition, Aurangzeb, the Mughal emperor, constructed a mosque called Alamgiri Masjid, at the site. The materials of the destroyed temple, was used in the construction of this mosque.
Other materials are scattered all around the site. One of the pillars bears the inscription which suggests that the original temple was dedicated to Goddess Charchika. The same inscription also bears the name of King Naravarman and Goddess Vijaya, after whom the temple is believed to be named.
It appears that the original temple was of considerable dimension approachable by a high flight of steps on its three sides. Not far from the temple site one could see the ancient baoli (stepwell) with carved pillars belonging to the eight century.
Udayagiri is about 4km from the town of Vidisha and about 13km from the Buddhist site of Sanchi. Cut into a sandstone hill, are some 20 Gupta cave shrines dating from the reign of Chandragupta II (382 – 401). Most are Hindu but two are Jain. Some of the caves are closed due to unsafe roofs. Cave no. 5 has an image of Vishnu in his boar incarnation. On the top of the hill are ruins of a 6th century Gupta temple dedicated to the sun god.
Not far from the Bijamandal is the Heliodorus Pillar. The Heliodorus pillar is a stone column that was erected around 113 BC in Vidisha by Heliodorus, from Taxila. He was the Greek ambassador of the Indo-Greek King Antialcidas. The pillar was surmounted by a sculpture of Garuda and was apparently dedicated by Heliodorus to the god Vasudeva.
The pillar is worshipped by local fishermen. On full moon nights one is chained to the pillar, he becomes possessed and is able to drive evil spirits from other locals. When someone has been exorcised, they drive a nail into the tamarind tree nearby, fixing to it a lime, a piece of coconut, a red threat and supposedly the spirit. The large tree is bristling with old nails.
Jhansi Fort is situated on Bangira hilltop in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. It was constructed in 1613 by Bir Sing Deo the king of Orchha. In 1728 Mohammed Khan Bangash the Mughal General attacked Maharaja Chattrasal. Peshwa Bajirao helped Maharaja Chattrasal to defeat the Mughal army. As a mark of gratitude, the Maharaja offered part of his state including Jhansi to Peshwa Bajirao. In 1742 the Peshwa appointed Naroshanker as the subedar of Jhansi. During his tenure of 15 years he extended the fort and built many buildings inside the fort. From 1766 to 1769 Vishwas Rao Laxman served as the subedar of Jhansi. Then Raghunath Rao (II) Newalkar was appointed the subedar of Jhansi. He was a very able administrator and built the Mahalakshmi temple and Ragunath temple.
During the time of Raja Gangadhar Rao, a generous and sympathetic administrator the local population of Jhansi was well satisfied. In 1842 Raja Gangadhar Rao married Manikarknika Tambe who was given the new name of Laxmi Bai. She gave birth to a boy named Damodar Rao, in 1851, who died after four months. The Maharaja adopted a child called Anand Rao, the son of Gangadhar Rao’s cousin who was renamed Damodar Rao on the day before the Maharaja died. The adoption was in the presence of the British political officer who was given letter from the Maharaja instructing that the child be treated with respect and that the government of Jhansi should be given to his widow for her lifetime. After the death of Maharaja in November 1853, because Damodar Rao (born Anand Rao) was adopted, the British East India Company, under Governor-General Lord Dalhousie, applied the Doctrine of Lapse, rejecting Damodar Rao’s claim to the throne and annexing the state to its territories. In March 1854, Laxmi Bai was given an annual pension of Rs. 60,000/- and ordered to leave the palace and the fort. In 1857, the revolt broke out and she took the control of the fort and led Jhansi forces against those of the British East India Company.
Jhansi was besieged by the company forces of General Hugh Rose in March and April 1858 and was captured on 4th April 1858. Rani Laxmi Bai was able to make a daring escape on horseback from the fort and the city before the city was pillaged by Rose’s troops.
The fort of Jhansi spreads over 15 acres and the colossal structure measures about 312m in length and 225m in width. There are twenty two supports with a mammoth wall surrounded by a moat on both sides. The granite walls of the fort are between 16 and 20 feet thick and on the south side meet the city walls. There are 10 gates giving access to the fort. The Kadak Bijli cannon used in the uprising of 1857 can be seen inside the fort.
The Rani Mahal or Queen’s Palace is a royal palace in the city of Jhansi in the Uttar Pradesh state of India. It was built by Raghunath II, who belonged to the Newalkar family of Peshwas, the rulers of Jhansi from 1769 to 1796. After the death of Raja Gangadhar Rao, his wife Rani Laxmi Bai resided in this palace. The palace rose to significance during the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, as it was the main center of activity and was attacked by the British.
It is flat roofed, two-storeyed building having quadrangular courtyard with a small well and one fountain. The darbar hall inside the palace is beautifully decorated with paintings in bright colours exhibiting various floral and faunal motifs.
The Rani Mahal is converted to a museum and houses a vast collection of stone sculptures collected from the surrounding areas dating from the Gupta to Medieval periods.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
The recently renovated, The Royal Opera House is the only opera house that survives in the country.
Special mention to Kruti Garg, who took us on a heritage walk through this iconic structure savaged by time and now returned to its previous glory. She is a senior conservation architect and was closely involved in the restoration of the building. Some excerpts from the journey:
Situated on Charni Road, near Girgaum Chowpatti beach, the adjective ‘Royal’ was prefixed to ‘Opera House’ to reflect the fact that its foundation stone was laid during the British Raj in 1909, and King George V inaugurated the building in 1911 while the building was still under construction and then it went on to be completed by 1915. There is the royal crest of England which has the unicorn on one side and a lion on the other, present on the main (front) facade and on the side. As a depiction of Opera, the designs have musical instruments like harps and trumpets making its appearance on the architecture.
Architecturally it was designed on the likes of Morris Bandman, an entertainer and invested by coal baron Jahangir Karaka, providing the highest luxury of that time. The basement under the stage area has an orchestra pit, wherein the band of Musicians would play. Ice was introduced through pipes in the subsurface of the building, in order to cool the interiors.
The Royal Opera House, initially saw a lot of performances from British and American companies. Subsequently, 5 years from its construction it started screening movies. In 1940, the Prithvi theatre performed at Opera house when in Mumbai. Deenanath Mangeshkar has also performed here. A lot of big staring movies were screened here and some renowned movies even shot here.
In 1935, the opera house was taken over by Ideal pictures and converted into a cinema hall. As a result of which in 1970s the side boxes – the prime seats in this theatre, were torn down and completely removed from the building because they were interfering with the sight lines for movies. A projection room was added in the middle of the first floor of auditorium which was not original. Hence, the building had completely changed from its initial setting of a high octave Baroque interior to an Art Deco Cinema, by the time it closed down in 1980s.
In 1952, it was bought over by the Maharaja and Maharani Jadeja of Gondal, Royal family of Gujarat, as a commercial venture and run it for another 30 years from then. In 1980s Opera house was closed down because this single screen theatre could not make profitable business anymore and remained closed for around 18 years. The elaborate curtain on the stage has the crest of the royal family of Gondal.
Initially, in May 2001, it was noted that since the opera house was a Heritage building, it could not be redeveloped but only restored. With a lot of Archival researches, the building was completely restored and is now a 585 seater auditorium. The side boxes are put back. So are the stained glass windows and rich mouldings of sculpted foliage on the ceiling and proscenium arch. The orchestra pit has been widened and foyers heightened by frescoes and crystal chandeliers.
From a publication that was obtained from a scholar from New Zealand, called ‘Territorials in India’ which had a full chapter about the Royal Opera House and how it was constructed.
When the restoration began, the ceilings were completely different. It had an Art deco feel with no embellishment and decoration as seen now. There were no details on the balcony and original material from the Site was missing.
The wood panelling and boxes were restored as in its inception. This is the only theatre of that time, which had the Royal box designed for family seating. Side balconies, although restored as original, are not functional anymore for seating. Originally, these side boxes and royal boxes were furnished with plush Irani bentwood chairs. The second balcony had just benches and was for the lowest priced tickets. However, the renovated building has crimson cushioned chairs throughout.
Archival research texts described the interiors as embellished with gold and crimson. Designs on the spandrel, of the little boy are an original design found during restoration work and put back in their original locations. Acoustics have been improved and redone and the building has seen an insertion of air conditioning, speaker system etc. In the entrance choir, one will see a pair of unique crystal chandeliers, which were donated by the David Sassoon family, from their mansion called the ‘Sans Souci’ in Byculla.
Original ceiling was in the same shape as today. Back then there were no speaker system to augment the sound levels, hence the ceiling was designed in shape of a gramophone mike, for acoustical reasons to improve sound quality.
New Technology combined with restoration of the old world charm has gone into the renovation of this building.
Some pictures from the site:
Not far from the Rani-ki-Vav (queen’s stepwell) in the town of Patan (Gujarat State) is the Sahastralinga Talav, an excellent example of the ancient water management system of Gujarat. It was constructed by Raja Sidhraj Jai sing in 1084 AD. This artificial reservoir is spread over an area of about five kilometres with stone embankments. The tank was designed to receive water from the nearby Saraswati River through a canal. There were thousand Shiva Shrines on the edge of the tank of which some ruins are still exists. The tank derived its name from these shrines. The tank is empty now and in ruins.
As per legend, during the construction of the tank, Raja Sidhraj Jai Singh fell in love with the beautiful maiden Jasma Odan, who belongs to the tank digger’s community. She refused the request of the king and committed sati (a former practice in India, whereby a widow threw herself into the funeral pyre of her husband) in order to save her dignity. It is believed that due to her curse the tank dried up.
If you walk further one kilometre towards the river bank you will reach to a tomb complex, which is locally known as ‘Panch Pir ki Dargha’ (Tomb of five saints). This complex mostly in ruins, contain a Baradari(a pavilion with 12 doors, designed to allow free flow of air) and mausoleum of five saints. The tomb of one saint is inside a domed structure. The other four tombs are on the right side of this structure on a raised platform which is opened to sky.