Architectural Conservation, conservation, Heritage, history, Indian Architecture, Uncategorised

Gaja- Lakshmi : One of the most beautiful form of Devi Lakshmi !

A trip to Sanchi is always about getting some new information. Whether you’ve visited there for the first time or the 100th time, there will be something new to your perspective always. We have always known “Gaja- Lakshmi” as one of the aspects of Hindu Goddess Lakshmi, but this time while clicking pictures of one of the torana of the main Stupa of Sanchi, I suddenly found a relief which was very familiar, yet presented in quite a different way. I had an urge to find out more about it and would like to share about my findings, that how this same icon has been represented in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and surprisingly; as a Japanese Goddess as well!

We have often seen the pictures and images of Gaja- Lakshmi in different forms at several places, since this is the most ancient form of the iconographic images, but usually the importance of this particular aspect is not much known to everyone. So after reading and comparing several articles, I would like to present my own analysis of it.

Bas relief of GajaLakshmi at the Buddhist Sanchi Stupa, Stupa I, North gateway, Satavahana dynasty sculpture, 1st century CE. It is also interpreted as- the elephants paying homage to Devi MAYA, the mother of Gautam Buddha exactly in a way the Gaja- Lakshmi is represented in Hindu iconography.
View of rear side of the complete torana at Northern Side, where the icon of Gaja-Lakshmi is visible on the bottom left portion above the last architrave, adjacent to the sculpture of elephant.

SANCHI is known for its stupas, monasteries, temples and pillars dating from the 3rd century BCE to the 12th century CE. The most famous of these monuments, the Sanchi Stupa 1, was originally built by Mauryan emperor Ashoka, whose wife Devi was the daughter of a merchant from the adjacent Vidisha. Their son Mahindra and daughter Sanghamitra were born in Ujjayini and sent to Sri Lanka, where they inspired the king, the queen and their people to adapt Buddhism.

This most significant Buddhist art was created under the rule of the Satavahana kings, who personally revered Hindu deities. During the first 600 years almost all of the art based on Buddhist themes that one can see today, was made under the rule of Hindu kings. The earliest known images of Gajalakshmi are found in the Buddhist art. She is a common deity in Hindu, Jain and Buddhist monuments.

WHO IS GAJA- LAKSHMI BASICALLY ?

Gajalakshmi, Gajalaxmi (and other spellings) meaning Lakshmi with elephants, is one of the most significant Ashtalakshmi aspects of the Hindu goddess Lakshmi. In this aspect, the goddess is depicted seated on a lotus, flanked on both side by an elephant (gaja). She is shown as seated in Padmasana yogic posture, and has four arms. In each of her upper pair of arms, she carries a lotus, and the lower hands are generally shown in abhya and varadamudra. The elephants flanking her are shown as “lustrating” (ceremoniously washing/ bathing) her, pouring water from their trunk over the goddess. This aspect like most other aspects of Lakshmi is representative of prosperity, good luck, and abundance; and the Gajalakshmi motifs are very common in Hindu and Buddhist iconography.

Classic painting of Sri Gaja- Lakshmi by Raja Ravi Varma, 1896.

According to mythology, Gaja Lakshmi once helped Lord Indra to regain his lost wealth from the depth of the ocean. This form of Goddess is the bestower and protector of wealth, prosperity, grace and royalty.

IMPORTANCE OF GAJA LAKSHMI :

Lakshmi’s association with elephants symbolize her royal or sovereign powers. Elephants are liked by Goddess Lakshmi since they have a royal, graceful presence and immense strength. They do not harbor enmity with other animals in the jungle and always have access to abundant food. Their sheer size keeps any potential enemies at bay. They walk with pomp,grandeur, and are naturally beautiful.

Four Armed Gaja- Lakshmi; Her both the upper arms are holding lotus bud. Elephants are seen on either side. Her right hand is in ‘Varad Mudra’ while left one is holding a pot. 1000CE, Sanchi.

The King of Gods ‘Indra’ rides his royal and divine elephant ‘Airavata’. Indra is also the rain bearing God and his elephant symbolizes the rain bearing clouds. Together they nourish the crops on earth and depict fertility. Elephants are therefore, associated with Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of beauty and fertility.

Lakshmi is depicted in Indian art as an elegantly dressed, prosperity showering golden-coloured woman with an owl as her vehicle, signifying the importance of economic activity in maintenance of life, her ability to move, work and prevail in confusing darkness. She typically stands or sits on a lotus pedestal, while holding a lotus in her hand, symbolizing fortune, self-knowledge, and spiritual liberation. Her iconography shows her with four hands, which represent the four aspects of human life important to Hindu culture: dharma, kāma, artha, and moksha.

According to a legend, she emerges during the creation of universe, floating over the water on the expanded petals of a lotus flower; she is also variously regarded as wife of Dharma, mother of Kāma, sister or mother of Dhātṛ and Vidhātṛ, wife of Dattatreya, one of the nine Shaktis of Viṣṇu, a manifestation of Prakṛti as identified with Dākshāyaṇī in Bharatasrama and as Sita, wife of Rama.

GAJA- LAKSHMI IN OTHER RELIGIONS :

The Japanese Kishijoten is adapted from Lakshmi.

In Buddhism, Lakshmi has been viewed as a goddess of abundance and fortune, and is represented on the oldest surviving stupas and cave temples of Buddhism. In Buddhist sects of Tibet, Nepal, and Southeast Asia, Vasudhara mirrors the characteristics and attributes of the Hindu Goddess, with minor iconographic differences. The Japanese goddess of fortune and prosperity, Kishijoten (吉祥天, ‘Auspicious Heavens’), corresponds to Lakshmi ji. Kishijoten is considered the sister of Bishamon (毘沙門, also known as Tamon or Bishamon-ten), who protects human life, fights evil, and brings good fortune. In ancient and medieval Japan, Kishijoten was the goddess worshiped for luck and prosperity, particularly on behalf of children. Kishijoten was also the guardian goddess of Geishas. While Bishamon and Kishijoten are found in ancient Chinese and Japanese Buddhist literature, their roots have been traced to deities in Hinduism.

Lakshmi is closely linked to DEWI SRI, who is worshipped in Bali as the goddess of fertility and agriculture. Dewi Sri is always depicted as a youthful, beautiful, slim yet curvaceous woman, with stylised facial features idiosyncratic to the respective locale, essentially a woman at the height of her femininity and fertility. In Javanese iconography, usually Dewi Sri is depicted wearing green, white or golden yellow clothes with regal jewelry attire, similar to Hindu goddess Laxmi, and holding rice plant with full rice grains in one of her hands as her attribute (lakçana).

Although the mythology of Dewi Sri is native to Java, after the adoption of Hinduism in the archipelago as early as the first century, she was equated with the Hindu goddess Shri Lakshmi, and often regarded as an incarnation or one of her manifestations, as both are associated with wealth and family prosperity. Thus subsequently her iconography and depictions adopted the typical Hindu goddess attribute, style and aesthetic.
Sanchi Stupa – II, A Medallion Gaja Lakshmi. Source: ASI.

So, after having a look at all the beautiful variations of Gaja-Lakshmi/ Lakshmi, it is notable that whether in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism or as a Japanese Goddess, she has always been the symbolism of prosperity, wealth, good health, fortune, self knowledge and spiritual liberation. Elephants tend to symbolize work, activity, and strength, as well as water, rain and fertility for abundant prosperity.

In the present times, when the world is facing so many issues due to the different misinterpretations of their respective cultures, it must be appreciated, that how our ancestors often used to have the same kind of symbolism/ iconography for the Gods/ Goddesses, that are usually surrounded by nature, while remaining in harmony with animals and all the other natural elements like water, flowers, vines etc. thereby respecting nature in every possible form.

Architectural Conservation, conservation, Heritage, history, Indian Architecture, Jabalpur

CHAUSATH YOGINI- An Excursion Through Time!

Bhedaghat- a small village near Jabalpur is famous for its marble rocks which soar in glittering splendor to a height of about a hundred feet on either side of the Narmada. Alexander Cunningham refers to it as a bathing-place on Narmada whereas the village is situated at the confluence of the Narmada and a small stream locally known as Saraswati but known as Banganga at Karanbel. Because of the Sangam (confluence) of two rivers, this place is considered holy. India’s largest CHAUSATH YOGINI TEMPLE is located on the top of a hill which is said to be on the fork of the confluence of holy River Narmada and Banganga.

A small temple of Matrikas was constructed originally in 1st Century AD when the Kushanas ruled over this region. In the 7th-8th Century during post-Gupta and at the beginning of the Kalachuri period, the original temple was extended as is evident from the analytical study of the existing sculptures. The present shape of the temple came into existence when Yuvrajdeva- I, the Kalachuri ruler came to power in 915 A.D.

Among many obscure religious cults of ancient and early medieval India, the cult of Chausath Yogini precisely called as CHAUNSATH YOGINI ( चौंसठ योगिनी ) in devanagari, was one of its kind. Yoginis are essentially attendants of the Mother Goddess, though different interpretations exist. The literary reference to Yoginis may be traced as far back as the post-Vedic period in India, regular cult worship of Yoginis came into existence sometimes during 8th- 9th Century A.D. Mention of Yogini is found in Skanda Purana, Agni Purana, Kathasaritasagar, Malatimadhava, Rajatarangani, Uttamacharitrakathanaka, etc where they are mentioned as a sorceress, having magical powers to turn human into birds or animals, ability to fly into the air, etc.

There are very few temples dedicated to the Yogini cult; two of them being at Orissa and three at Madhya Pradesh, out of which the one at Jabalpur is the largest and have “Eighty-One” yoginis instead of “sixty-four”. The construction of these temples used to be executed in two patterns; First, when a ruler used to enhance the boundaries of their kingdom or they wanted to offer prayers for their healthy self, then the temple being constructed was supposed to be of “Eighty-one or Ikyasi” yoginis. Secondly, when the purpose of temple construction was for the local people or common people, then it was constructed as “Chausath Yogini Temple”. The temple at Jabalpur is of Eighty One or Ikyasi Yoginis, hence it has more importance.

The temple has an internal diameter of about 116 feet and the external diameter of about 131 feet. Cunningham describes it as “A curious circular cloister of considerable antiquity located on the singularly fine and commanding position above a hill near Narmada.” The cloister consists of 84 square pillars which result in an arrangement of 81 cells and 3 entrances, two on the west, and one on the south-east.

A slab discovered here, that is presently kept in American Oriental Society’s Museum, bears an inscription that mentions that the Kalchuri queen Alhanadevi, who was the wife of the king Gayakarna, built this temple during the reign of her son Narasimhadeva in the Kalachuri year 907 (1155 CE). As per the study of Cunningham, the characters of the labels on the Yogini image pedestals tell that the characters of these labels are older than those used in the slab inscription hence it can be predicted that the Yogini temple is older than the inscription.

The Gauri- Shankar Mandir

Inside the Garbhagriha of the small temple known as “Gaurishankar Mandir” is a rare image of Gauri- Shankar under worship, where Shiv and Parvati are shown seated on the back of a standing Nandi. This image depicts the departure scene of Shiva after his marriage with Parvati, and a small scene depicting the marriage procession is inscribed below this image, along with the inscription of “VARESHWAR” in Nagari- Lipi dating back to Eleventh Century. It is said to be a sculpture which is one of its kind in the whole country. Sculptures of Surya, dancing Ganesha, Lakshmi- Narayana, Naga- Nagi and three headed shiva are also fixed in the walls of Garbha Griha.

The main idol inside the Gauri Shankar Mandir, where Shiva and Parvati are shown seated on Nandi. Source: online.

The design of the temple has been kept simple, but the idols of yoginis are exquisitely carved, each one depicting a unique posture. It has been constructed of primarily granite stone and the columns are all monolithic. This is the only temple where one will find Ganeshani or Vinayaki, the feminine form of Ganesha. She is one of Chausath Yoginis. The courtyard of the Chausath Yogini Temple offers a scenic view of the Gorge at River Narmada and the surrounding landscape.

The old image showing the condition of temple before it was restored by ASI. Source : Beglar’s report.

Association with Aurangzeb:
There is an interesting story (mentioned in local stories) behind this temple linked to Aurangzeb. When Aurangzeb was destroying the temples of the Indian Continent, he reached Jabalpur and started destroying this temple. He destroyed all the Yogini’s IDOLS, but when he went to the central shrine of Shankar and Parvati sitting on Nandi Bull to destroy. He was unable to destroy due to the honey bees attack as a miracle. Then he realized the power of God and he went away from here.

Label reads Sri-Aingini. She is the shakti associated to Ganesha. R D Banerji mentions that the figure below the lotus pedestal depicts Ganesha. (R D Banerji No 41, Cunningham No 54)
Sri Phanendri Devi.
She is shown with four hands, but all broken.
Label reads Sri-Takari. She is shown with six hands. Lion is her mount. (R D Banerji No 38, Cunningham No 9)
Shown with sixteen hands, the goddess Mahishasuramardini stands over Mahishasura (buffalo demon) whose head is cut and lying below.

In spite of the grandness and huge scale of this temple, one can say that it was constructed in such a humble way, where a human being can relate easily with its scale. While standing at the bottom of the hill, nobody can guess where these stairs lead to. Even after reaching on top one can see the circular outer wall of the temple, but the main temple of Gauri Shankar is visible only once you come very close to the boundary wall or the final landing of steps. The whole setting is very calm and serene where one can definitely attain some peace while overlooking the beautiful views of river Narmada, which are now sadly being encroached by the local people. There is a tunnel (now closed) which is clearly visible near the entrance gate of the circular periphery, and the locals say that this has been connected to the Madan Mahal Fort as Rani Durgavati used to visit this temple. The site does not need much development, as the silence adds on to the ambiance of the temple, just a little bit of maintenance like regular cleaning and protection from vandalism will keep it intact.

The bird’s eye view of temple. Source: Patrika.com

References –

  1. Banerji, R D (1931). The Haihayas of Tripuri and Their Monuments. Archaeological Survey of India.
  2. Burgess, J (1894). Epigraphia Indica vol II. Archaeological Survey of India.
  3. Cunningham, Alexander (1879). Report of a Tour in the Central Province in 1873-74-75-76 (Vol IX). Archaeological Survey of India.
  4. Deva, Krishna (1969). Temples of North India. National Book Trust. New Delhi. ISBN: 9788123719702.
  5. Puratattva.in/2011/Bhedaghat
  6. Images : Self if otherwise mentioned.
Architectural Conservation, conservation, Heritage, history, Indian Architecture

Songs of the Stones

Stones are the most ancient material available on earth. They are being used by humans for more than 2.5 million years. We have seen stones in the form of mountains, hills, boulders or pebbles. Stone is also a great building material and we have been observing (or not) it around us in the form of ancient ruins, heritage structures, and even in our own houses. Do we ever think that these stones can also be treated as living objects? Very rare!

What is the first thing that we are taught, while learning about the Non Living Things? STONES right? And we have believed for almost all our lives that the stones are indeed few of the most non living things in this world.

Last year, we planned a family trip to Pondicherry – Mahabalipuram, where we had an opportunity to spend some time with the marvels of Indian history and heritage.

Mahabalipuram lies on the Coromandel Coast which faces the Bay of Bengal. This is an elegant place to watch which was a well established sea port during the 7th to 10th centuries of the Pallava dynasty. This was the second capital of the Pallavas who ruled Kanchipuram. Formerly, mahabalipuram was known as Mamallapuram. The former name of this place ‘Mahabalipuram’ has a history.   It was during the reign of King Narasimha Varman I(630 – 668AD), the name Mahabalipuram was changed. There is a story behind. The name Mamallpuram had been popular after king Narasimha Varman I, who was a great and valiant warrior. He was given the title Mamalla which means ‘the great wrestler’ so the name was converted from Mahabalipuram to Mamallapuram considering the great king and his achievements.https://www.mahabalipuram.co.in/pm

I have always felt that the sculptures are a medium of telling stories by our ancestors without any written text or even saying a single word. We can only imagine, How much physical efforts, thought process and creativity have been put into these marvellous sculptures, for creating such poetic details out of stones is not an easy task.. And even after standing tall for decades, facing so many storms, heavy rains, tsunami, and being eroded, the Monuments are still proudly ready to tell their stories to those who have time to listen to them.

MAHISHASURMARDINI CAVE:
The Mahishasuramardhini Cave is carved into three shrines bass relief of Somaskanda in the rear, Anantasayana Vishnu canopied by Shesha, reclining on the serpent bed. Mahishasuramardhini is struck in bold relief in such an awe-inspiring way with the thrill of the beholder in the battlefield. This is another excellent bas-relief depicting Lord Vishnu sleeping on the coils of serpent king Adisesha and goddess Durga fighting with demon king Mahishasura.

PANDAVA RATHAS:
Pandava Raths are Monolithic Shrines that are located just behind the bay of Bengal. They are five in number, of which four are carved, out of a single rock, while the fifth is scooped from a small rock. The hut-like Draupadi Rath sports door-keepers, Durga with a worshipper cutting and offering is neck, and the outer walls of Arjuna’s rath have most lovely and graceful figures of gods and mortals carved by a skilful sculptor.  Nakula-Sahadeva rath stands with a huge Monolithic elephant in front.  Bhima’s rath has two storeys and lion-based pillars.  Dharmaraja’s rath is the biggest and has 8 panels of exquisite sculptures. These rock-cut temples, named after the five Pandava brothers and Draupadi are the excellent examples of the Pallava art.  All the five monuments are called Rathas as they are full sized models and look like the chariots of the temple.  However, they recall the earlier architecture of the Buddhist chapels and monasteries. In addition, the Ganesha Ratha in the north side is also a beautiful piece of art. The architecture resembles Dravidian temples with their imposing towers and multi-pillared halls and sculptured walls. Although there hasn’t been any mention of Pandavas visit to this place in order to get the inspiration of creating these structures, but since the rathas and carvings are predominantly depicting the several stories and characters of Mahabharat, hence this place holds a special association with the great Indian epic.

SHORE TEMPLE:
The Shore Temple is located on the beach and if local lore is to be trusted it is one of the best examples of surviving structure of the legendary Seven Pagodas. Despite continuous erosive effects of the moist and salty sea air, the Shore Temple preserves its beauty in many parts. Built between 700 and 728 CE during the reign of Narasimhavarman II, this is indeed a remnant of a larger complex of temples and civil structures much of which lie under the depth of the sea now. The stately shrine set elegantly on the edge of the sea is a long survivor among the seven magnificent temples built over here.  The construction originally started around the middle of the 7th century and was later rebuilt during the reign of Narsimha Varma II, also known as Rajasimha.  It is one of the oldest temples in South India and represents the first phase of structural temples constructed in Dravidian style.  This icon of the soaring aesthetic aspiration of the Pallavas has been listed among the World Heritage Sites of UNESCO and is one of the most visited monuments in Tamil Nadu. Originally, there were seven such temples called as pagodas and only one has been spared. It has a vimana towering over 60 feet built in basaltic rock. The Shore Temple is in fact complexes of three exquisitely carved shrines and are approached through a paved forecourt flanked by weathered perimeter walls supporting striking sculptures of numerous ‘Nandi’ bulls. A temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu is flanked by two Shiva temples, one facing the east and the other facing the west.  Both the Shiva Temples are crowned by soaring spires, while the Vishnu Temple has none, as it may have crumbled with time.  The Vishnu temple was built by Narasimha Varma I or “Mamalla”, while the Shiva temples were later built by his son Narasimha Varman II.

ARJUNA’S PENANCE:
Arjuna Penance is a huge rock in the canvas unfolding a scene of gods and demigods, birds, animals, beasts and natural scenery.  Some people also say that it is Bhagirath’s  penance to bring the celestial Ganges to the earth. A natural cleft in rock has been cleverly carved into the turbulent river Ganges with serpent gods worshipping like devotees along the banks frozen in their prayer a superb poetry in sculpture which no visitor should miss.This a complicated magnificent piece of skilfully carved work, the largest bas-relief sculptures in the world.  Arjuna, the epic hero of Mahabharata, is depicted here as sage doing penance in order to obtain the divine weapons from Lord Shiva. All the carvings are made out of a huge boulder. There is a natural cleft in the centre of the huge rock which is conceived as the sacred river Ganga descending to earth.  Various divine figures have been carved on all the sides.  This piece of work is a masterpiece of creation in expression, particularly the figures relating to the popular Panchatanthra stories. Bhagiratha Penance is one of the largest and the finest bas-relief measuring 29m*7m, sculpted on the face of two enormous adjacent rocks. The panel is divided by a natural crack between the two rocks. The panel is divided by a natural crack between the two rocks. Originally the water fed from a collecting camber above, flowed down the fissure. A figure of bearded sage with floating ribs, standing on his left foot, deeply absorbed in performing penance is believed to be Bhagiratha praying for the Ganga to descend to earth from the Himalayas. The carvings depict realistic life size images of birds, animals, deities and other divine figures watching the flow of the Ganga. Some others relate this bas-relief to Arjuna’s penance, petitioning Lord Shiva for the divine weapon, Pashupatha.  The figure of animals particularly, the two large elephants and scenes from the fables in the Panchatantra are remarkable and unpretentious. The richness in the iconographic content of carvings makes this unique.

These are just some of the amazing man-made marcels of Mahabalipuram, where the artisans had put so much effort to bring the stones to life, and although the information of ASI boards doesn’t do much justice to the description, the stones are very well capable of telling their own stories to everyone who wish to spend some time with them and listen to the silent songs of the stones…

Architectural Conservation, conservation, Heritage

Life After Death; Reincarnation of A Building!

It’s been a long time since I believe, that the old buildings, do have some way of reincarnating of their own! I do feel that buildings, although being lifeless, have some kind of life within them…Initially I used to think, that may be, it was just a random thought, as this cannot be practical, but as I have grown from being an Architect to a Conservation Architect, this belief of mine has grown up with me too.What is a building made up of? Is it only the bricks, lime, timber, cement, stones, mortar, paint? Every non living thing right? Are we completely sure about this? Or do they have the feelings, emotions, stories, associated too? Can we say that it’s the association only, and all these does not act as building materials? I think not!Our home, where we live, has seen us grow, has heard our stories, was there when we were happy or sad, lonely or accompanied. It has been a witness of our culture, traditions, and celebrations! Can we say that the building, which we call a home, is not a complete emotion in itself?Being a Heritage Conservationist, sometimes I feel that all this is because of the fact that I am suppose to be conversing with the buildings in order to protect them, but then, whenever I visit a place with old buildings, I am very much determined that this thought, is not my imagination only!

Have you been to a place where you can go close to a heritage structure? I visit them often. There are so many thoughts flooding as soon as i am at the heritage site. What type of life was there in that building? I think of so many things the moment I step in. About The people who lived there, be it royal family or simple human beings. The animals, birds and insects who once played inside these huge walls, who called this building, their Home. The culture, festivals and traditions that were once part of that building. The events that had happened within the campus. Does everything die with time? Do the memories fade away for the building too? Are there some times, when the building wants to share their stories with us humans anymore? Or do they have secluded themselves from the humans who have abandoned the structure so mercilessly, and let it die?

Whenever inside such building, stand still, touch a wall lovingly and curiously, I always do so, as I always feel, that the building too must have been longing for a loving touch from someone, who does not want to bring any harm to it. The building too must be tired of standing alone from so long, that it might have forgotten, how it feels like being loved once again.. What if the building is willing to tell us the stories of the bygone era, the journey of itself, or the growth and fall of that mighty structure? The building must have witnessed so many events of the people living in and around it; a child’s birth, a marriage ceremony, a death of the beloved member, welcoming a new pet, celebration of functions, success and failure stories and what not. The story of trees that grew together with it, or the animals (including humans) who have been with it since several generations? Have they left the building too? I can still see the mighty trees that once might have been planted lovingly as a small seed. The birds still keep coming back to their nests. The fruits still attract a naughty bunch of monkeys or the humble cows who graze silently under the shade of the same tree.

So, what does the Reincarnation of A Building mean? Only to conserve it using the non living material or bringing people or life back to the abandoned structure? What I feel, that when we conserve a building, we must make sure that we are trying to initiate at least some human/ any living activities inside, in order to retain the structure. But all this, is a lengthy process and a lot of capital is required.Nature has its own way of bringing lifeless things to life. A small leaf, a tiny plant always grows from a nook and corner, giving signs of the willingness to live! How else can we justify the Hindu temples of Combodia, where huge trees have been growing within the temples since so long, that they have become an inseparable part of the structure now. The building and tree, both are interdependent on each other for their strength, therefore supporting the life in each other.This vegetative growth, is not so sudden. There is a thin layer of moss on the outer layer first. If undisturbed, it retains the moisture there on the surface. This leads to the growth of grass. Then with the help of small insects, bees and birds, seeds are being brought upon. It doesn’t matter how small the creek is, a tiny plant will soon peep out. The wall becomes a ground in itself,no matter what the material is. The tiny plants soon cover up the whole wall or roof, painting it in a beautiful green colour, for no one knows, for how long the wall has been left unpainted for! The roof at Reis Magos Fort- Goa over here, is covered in so many tiny flowering plants, that it is hard to see the non living part of this roof, but the lively atmosphere the plants have created in and around the area is very charming and fairy-tale like. The pathways, although slippery (and sometimes dangerous) are a home for so many tiny plants,insects and birds.

May be I am being a bit emotional about the Heritage and the historic structures, but I truly feel, that the proper conservation and right methods of adaptive reuse can do wonders! The building is not only brought back to life, but by creating scope of lively activities, we always have the option to fill the emptiness with lots of life, paint it bright, make big and small green spaces, create informal sitting spaces, and try your best to make the structure alive again. Just don’t treat the buildings as non living always, for they have been a part of several stories, emotions, and families for generations. And the building itself, was once a dream for someone, who wanted it to be true someday!

Don’t let the building die a slow death, for every one deserves a second chance to live, grow and celebrate. So next time you visit a historical structure, try to empathise with it, your perspective will be definitely changed!

Inspiration for this article: The well conserved structures ( And a few neglected ones too) of Goa who were given a second chance to live.

Photographs : Self.

Picture locations: 1. Reis Magos Fort, Goa.

2. Church of St. Augustine, Goa.

3. Dilliwaala6 Café – Puducherry.

Heritage

‘Qutub Minar -A Sufi Poetry’

“EK AAYAT SI DAST E QUDRAT NE,

TITLIYON KE PARO’N PE LIKH DI!”

-QAMAR IQBAL

( A verse From the Quran, by Hands of Nature,

Been written on the wings of Butterflies 🦋 )

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MESMERISING! That is what I thought when I first saw the minar from the entrance. There it stood, towering over everything around her as silent ode to its makers ( the rulers, architects and masons ). I hastened my steps, eager to look at it from close quarters and it surely swept off my feet by its sheer elegance and beauty.

Though the Qutub Minar from a distance looks like a plain structure jutting out from earth; somewhat akin to a giant chimney, a closer look will ensure that you change your mind! The structure is embellished with inscriptions and the balconies supported by decorative brackets provide a tone of beauty.

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How can one not feel honoured to visit this magnificent heritage site; which is also the UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in the Mehrauli Archaeological Park, Delhi-India.

The Qutub Minar is the tallest Ashlar Masonry minar in the world at a height of 72.5 metres or 237.8 ft with 379 steps and a base diameter of 14.3 metres (46.9 ft), tapering to 2.75 metres at the top.

Probably the oldest continuously inhabited area in Delhi, the area around the Qutb Complex, commonly known as Mehrauli is the cite of Delhi’s oldest fortified city, Lal Kot, founded by Tomar Rajputs in AD 1060. The Chauhan Dynasty replaced the Tomars as the rulers of Delhi in the mid twelfth century. The last ruler of this dynasty, Prithvi Raj Chauhan, enlarged the fortress of Lal Kot to form Qila Rai Pithora. Today, only three gates and some parts of wall remain of the original fort.

It is believed that the most impressive buildings/ structures of this period were Twenty Seven Hindu, Buddhist and Jain Temples at the site where the Qutub Minar stands today. The Turks invaded the city of Lal Kot in AD 1192, and these temples were destroyed as an act of war, and their pillars were used to build the first mosque of Northern India, the Quwwat-Ul-islam Mosque (1192).

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There are various theories regarding the builder of the Qutub Minar. Sir Syed attributed the first storey to Prithviraj Chauhan who is believed to have built it for his daughter so that she could view the Yamuna River as part of her daily worship. No doubt it was the work of Hindu masons, but to be sure, prior to the arrival of the Turks there was no concept of Minarets in India and that could have inspired Prithviraj Chauhan to build the first storey of Qutub.

Basheeruddin Ahmed writes that the minar was started by Qutbuddin Aibak at the command of his master, Sultan Mohammed of Ghor, and completed by his son-in-law and successor, Sultan Iltutmish. This again supports the theory of it being a victory tower. He also adds that one must not make the mistake of thinking that it was named after Qutbuddin Aibak, as its name is due to the reverence given to Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki whose shrine is nearby.[1]

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The Minar is built of Red and Buff Sandstone and it has five storeys and four balconies. It stands on a plinth of approximately two feet from the ground. One prominent feature of the minar is the difference in design themes of the various storeys and in the arrangements of the flutings. This could be because it was built by three Sultans and repaired by many in later period.

Round the tower are carved moulding containing the names and praises of the builder, Qutbuddin, and of his master, Sultan Mohammed of Ghor, with texts of Quran and the name of Allah, all written in Kufic Characters.

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Elaborately carved Muqarnas- a type of corbel employed as a decorative device and support for projecting balconies which resemble stalactites, decorate the balconies.

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The entire history of the construction- from the first storey of Aibak in 1199 to the additions by Sultan Iltutmish and repairs by Sultan Firoz Shah ( ruled 1351-1388) and Sultan Sikander Lodi ( ruled 1489-1517) in 1503- is all given in the inscriptions on the various levels of Minar.[2]

“HOGI IS DHHER IMARAT KI KAHANI KUCH TO,

DHOONDH ALFAZ KE MALBE ME MAA’INI KUCH TO”

~ SHAHPAR RASOOL

{Surely a story hides behind these ruins, somewhere,

Search the debris of words, the meaning is there, somewhere}

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[1] Masa’liku-L Ab’sar Fi’ Mama’liku- L Amsa’r of Shahabu-D Din Abu’ – L Abbas Ahmed; The History Of India As Told By Its Own Historians, Eliott and Dawson.

[2] RANA SAFVI; Where Stones Speak.

[3] Photography: Self

Uncategorised

Love at first sight!

To,

Dearest Shahrukh Khan!

1993. India.

A thriller movie, DARR was released. Myself, being very young (2 years and a few days old). One fine day, when I woke up, I was crying for some reason, and the very same time, my mother switched on the TV. A young boy with brown jacket, guitar in his hand, and beautiful dimples was there on television and the song Jadoo Teri Nazar being played in the background. I was very very small and though it is very hard to believe, that in such young age, a child can understand anything or recognise anyone other than her parents, I saw Shahrukh Khan, and I instantly felt some connection with that dimpled smile. That, was the Love at first Sight for sure!

It became a routine, and as soon as I got up, I expected the song and SRK in front of myself. My parents maybe thought, that atleast this prevents me from crying, and they used to switch on the television as soon as I woke up. I don’t even know that When this small gesture became a routine, even till date….

While learning to speak small words at that tender age, I instantly caught up with the song, and even before I learnt the nursery rhymes, I was singing Tu Hai Meri Kiran… 😋😅

With the passing time, as I was growing up, I still used to feel a deep connection with SRK and his dimpled smile. His every new movie, was a celebration for me. His every song, his dialogues made me feel happy.

I was madly in love with his twinkling eyes, his smile, his silky hair, and that amazing personality. At one moment, he is the Badshah of Bollywood, and at the other moment, he is an inspiration to millions of people like myself! My friends always used to tease me, WHO ELSE IN THIS WORLD IS SO MAD FOR A BOLLYWOOD ACTOR LIKE YOU ARE? But, I always took a lot of pride to say, that I am a Jabra Fan! So much, that I’ve been given the nickname ‘DON’ since the movie released, and YES, even after completing my studies, and working on the monuments (Being A Conservation Architect) I still love being called as DON!

Yes. Shahrukh Khan is that Best Friend of mine whom I haven’t met ever, but I still am extremely happy to have him in my life! I’ve always shared all my secrets with him (His posters to be precise 😅), his life lessons were taken very seriously, and the most amazing thing about him is, whenever I feel low, or upset, or there is some serious issue in my life, by some way or the other, his quotes or his interviews are published at that very instant, and I get all my answers from him.

Is this a connection between both of us? Maybe yes. But he don’t even know that I am admiring him from the other side…. So what? Do I love him? Yes, I adore him, I look up to him. He is not just an actor, Wo Sirf Star Nahi Hai, Duniya Hai Meri! I still get all my answers from him! Raj, from DDLJ is still the coolest boy I can imagine, and Dr. Jehangir Khan from Dear Zindagi came at exactly the right time with his wonderful lessons when I was struggling in my life!

10th July 2016, The most amazing moment of life, when I went to Mumbai, and visited MANNAT! The way I cried, and the emotions that I felt at that moment, are beyond any explanations… And then, I saw the Man himself! SRK was in front of me, as he came out of his bungalow in his black audi. We (myself and my best friend Atul) ran towards his car, and jumped in front of it. I saw him. He was there. My idol, was in front of me! I was completely frozen then and there. Nothing else in this world existed at that moment, not even me. All I could feel at that time was, that the person whom I’ve been wishing to meet was there in front of me! ❤️❤️

This small blog, is not enough for me to express what and how Shahrukh Khan is to me and my life, but still, I wish this reaches up to him, Someday, somewhere…

I am still waiting to meet him since last 25 years, patiently, but still enthusiastic about what will the event look like! I always feel, whenever this will happen, I’ll be able to say this to him –

“” Aayi aisi raat hai jo, bahut khushnaseeb hai…
Chahe jise door se duniya, wo mere kareeb hai.
Kitna kuch kehna hai phir bhi hain dil me sawal kayi…
Sapno me jo roz kaha hai wo phir se kahun ya nahi…. 😍❤️””!

Will see you soon Dr. Khan!

Lots of love,

Your Biggest Fan,

‘Don’ Medha!