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

Lothal – “the mound of the dead”.

Lothal is located in the Bhal region of the Indian state of Gujarat. It is six kilometres south-east of the Lothal-Bhurkhi railway station on the Ahmedabad-Bhavnagar railway line. The nearest city is Bagodara. Lothal was one of the most prominent cities of the ancient Indus valley civilization dating from 3700 BCE. Discovered in 1954, Lothal was excavated from February 1955 to May 1960 by the Archaeological Survey of India. It was vital and thriving trade centre in ancient time with its trade of beads, gems and valuable ornaments reaching far corners of West Asia and Africa. The techniques and tools they pioneered for bead making and metallurgy have the test time for over 4000 years.

The meaning of Lothal (a combination of Loth and thal) in Gujarati to be “the mound of the dead” is not unusual as the name of the city of Mohenjo-daro in Sindhi means the same.

Archaeologists have unearthed trenches sunk on the northern, eastern and western flanks of the mound, bringing to light the inlet channels and nullah connecting the dock with the river. The findings consist of a mound a township, a marketplace and the dock.

The town was divided into blocks of 1 to 2 meter high platforms of sun dried bricks each serving 20-30 houses of thick mud and brick walls. The city was divided into a citadel or acropolis and a lower town. The rulers of the town lived in the acropolis which featured paved baths underground and surface drains and potable water well. The lower town was subdivided into two sectors. The residential area was located to either side of the marketplace.

Remains of canal opening built with burnt bricks
The remains of the dock wall at Lothal
Can you imagine these bricks were made in 2300 BC?
The main well in Lothal
Remains of washroom drainage system at Lothal
More remains from the excavation site of Lothal
More remains from the excavation site of Lothal
More remains from the excavation site of Lothal
More remains from the excavation site of Lothal
The remains of the ancient drainage system of Lothal
The remains of bathroom-toilet structure at Lothal
The remains of the burial place
The remains of the lower town

The archaeological museum which stands next to the excavated area is holding some of the most prominent collections of Indus-era antiquities in India.

The archeological museum next to the excavation site

How to reach Lothal:
There are frequent buses from Ahmedabad to Saurashtra. Catch one of these buses and get down at Bagodara. There are rickshaws available from there to Lothal.

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.