Wordless Wednesday -336


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Photo Essay- Humayun’s Tomb And A Day Saturated With Prayers


It is all a matter of faith. They say, when there is a calling then only one can visit the Dargah of  Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, Delhi’s 14th century Sufi saint.  After years of waiting I was finally able to offer Chaddar at the mazar. There is something in the air which slowly seeps into your being and a complete transformation takes place.  Fragrance of incense sticks, flowers, the soothing melodious sounds of qawallies sang in devotion to the Sufi saint, the devotees all add to the somber atmosphere of the Dargah. Tears flowed as all the pain, hurt accumulated over the years  flowed out. I felt completely cut off from everything around me. Its a feeling of  complete oneness with the saint, something one can not describe. We offered prayers and the dargah nasheens ( caretakers) helped us in that.

The world suddenly changes to medieval one as you leave the main road to go towards the Dargah. Labyrinthine alleys, crowds of beggars and street-vendors, bazaars with cheap eateries hawking kababs and other delicacies, people selling caps, rosaries, religious posters, books, CDs, turn it into a magical world. The unusual blend of music, ritual, food, crafts and local traditions insulates one from the hustle bustle of outside world.

I tied the thread on the jaali and closed my eyes in reverence. One can feel the the immense love and affection that Hazrat Nizammudin Auliya, the14th century poet and Amir Khusrau, the musician shared. The passionate submission to the khwaja that one witnesses here  is unique of Sufism and the magnetic pull which brings one again and again to the this shrine is unmistakable.

We did not take any photographs as it was a purely personal visit but a  post on the Dargah is due with all the pictures.

The photo shoot  took place at Humayun’s Tomb. Magnificent and impressive the newly restored world heritage site is one of my favorites. Every visit to this striking monument brings out some mysterious  intrinsic splendor come alive.

The west door from where the tourists enter the complex.

The magnificent view from the west door.

The recent restoration and conservation of  the gardens, pathways, fountains and water channels of the chahâr-bâgh, or four-part paradise garden, surrounding Humayun’s Tomb has simply made the mausoleum look even more beautiful than before. All the lost glory of this tomb seeped in melancholy and solitude is back. For the first time in 400 years, water channels in the 16th Century Humayun’s Tomb were reactivated to facilitate the water harvesting system in the tomb, making it the largest heritage site in India to have such a system. The Tomb is also the only site to have a water harvesting system that covers two acres of constructed area and 30 acres of the entire site. At night, when the tomb is lit up, it is truly spectacular to watch the fountains and the building in backdrop emerging out of  the deep shadows of the garden.

The lush green gardens with trees and water bodies are a refreshing sight. Surrounded by ancient ruins, the place draws you to itself. The gardens are dotted with  Black Bean Tree,Budha Coconut,Palms,Figs,Anar,Chandani,Citrus,amalta,neem,champa ,amaltas etc. The complex has some of the oldest trees in Delhi. The sound of the koel bird echoed in the still summer evening. One could also hear peacocks at a distance but I wasn’t able to spot one. Though we spotted a pair of beautiful storks.

Along with the tourists and locals who come to relax in the midst of these serene surroundings we found some gorgeous crows cooling themselves in the plush lawns.

Another crow decided to take a bird’s-eye view from the stump of  palm tree.

The garden restoration has breathed new life into the legacy of  the first garden tomb of India. 500 pomegranate saplings, 2000 flower-bearing fragrant plants like Hibiscus,HarsingarChandni and Jasmine, as well as shade trees like mango and neem, were planted in the 26 acre garden and one can see the stunning results as one enters the complex.

Centuries’-old Indian craft, modern technology and hard work of dedicated laborers revived dilapidated monument and gave it a much-needed face lift.  Humayun’s Tomb finally rose from its slumber to its former glory. The restoration of Isa Khan’s Tomb is still on and tourists are not allowed in. Country’s oldest sunken garden is being uncovered here. We saw some of the things which were excavated from the site.

One of the best preserved and tourist friendly monuments of Delhi, Humayun’s Tomb is the finest specimen of Indo- Islamic architecture. Apart from the main building we visited some other monuments inside the complex and in it’s vicinity  like, Barber’s tomb (nai ka maqbara), Neela Gumbad, Chillah Nizamuddin Aulia, Afsarwala Mosque, Afsarwala Tomb, Arab Sarai, the lovely garden of Bu Halima and Isa Khan’s tomb.

We talked around the complex absorbing is rich past and mesmerized by the  beauty of  the ruins. Unknown graves took us by surprise and the plush soft green grass took away all the tiredness and heat of summer. We leisurely walked barefoot on the moist grass, oblivious to the love birds( couples) and the foreign tourists. The sun was beginning to set and the tomb glowed in its golden light of the melancholic dusk. The cool breeze added to the serenity of the place.

We sat near the elevated  boundary of the tomb’s platform and gazed at the beauty that surrounded us. It was a day saturated with prayers and ancient history.

Humayun wasn’t one of the greatest of Mughal emperors. A dreamy romantic king with a soft heart who was fond of books, music, astrology, he was born to Babur, the founder of Mughal dynasty he spent his life pursuing the pleasures and lost his empire to Sher Shah Suri. His brothers turned hostile, friends became enemies and long serving servants fled leaving him lonesome and humiliated. The man who once had the entire north of India under his thumb, Humayun, was forces to languish in solitude. One can feel the gloom and desolation in his grave which has no inscription etched on it. Unlike other emperors his beloved wife is not buried next to him. The eerie silent pain seeps out of the grave and hangs in the air of the quiet tomb. My heart went out for this lonely emperor as I walked around the main tomb.

456 years have gone by since this unfortunate king died and was buried here. He lost everything and dies falling from the treacherous straits of Purana Quila. The tragedy did not end here.  A century later, the headless body of Humayun’s great grandson, Dara Shikoh, the greatest Mughal emperor India never had, was also buried here.  Dara was murdered by his own brother Aurangzeb. This glorious tomb is the only thing left of Humayun.

I reflected on our day as Adi and I talked of the king , his mausoleum, the river Yamuna that flowed nearby , the shrine of Khwaja Nizamuddin Aulia and realized how much human and cultural history every nook and corner of this area held. We missed out on many nearby Baoris (wells) and smaller mosques and monuments and vowed to come back soon.

The evening shadows deepened as we left the past and drove into the glitter and madness of present. Our hearts filled with mixed emotions and saturated with prayers.

Monumental Heritage of India


India is an ancient country rich in monumental heritage. There are ancient caves, tombs, forts and temples that are known for their breathtaking beauty and exquisite architecture.

Here we will take a tour of three very distinct and well-known monuments which are a must watch for all the tourists visiting India, A magnificent tomb of Mughal period, a cluster of ancient caves and a Hindu temple whose beauty surpasses everything around.

Humayun’s Tomb

Humayun’s Tomb is the landmark of Delhi and my favorite monument of Mughal times.

The first distinct example of Mughal architecture in India, it was built by the emperor Humayun’s widow, Hamida Begum, in 1565 AD. Designed by the Persian architect, Mirza Ghyas, Humayun’s Tomb is one of the finest mausoleums built in red sandstone & colored tiles for ornamentation. It is the first garden tomb made in India.

The complex is a World Heritage Site and it is not only an excellent example of early Mughal architecture, but also the predecessor of the magnificent Taj Mahal at Agra.

The mausoleum merges the Persian architecture and Indian traditions to give a beautiful effect – the arched alcoves, corridors and the high double dome are the significant aspect of the Persian touch and the kiosks, which give it a pyramidal outline from distance, denote the Indian tradition.

Located in the midst of a geometrically arranged garden crisscrossed by numerous water channels and screened by high walls, the tomb is surmounted by a magnificent marble dome that stands 140 feet from the base of the terrace and is topped with a copper pinnacle. The entrance is a massive double-storey gateway that shows the majesty of the building. The architectural design, known as ‘Hasht Bahisht’ (Eight circles of Paradise), used in Humayun’s Tomb was the first in the sub-continent.

It is homage to The Royal Dynasty and several rulers of the Mughal Sultanate lie buried in the mausoleum, although impossible to identify their graves.

Around the complex, there are several other beautiful monuments like Nila-Gumbad or the Blue Dome. It is an impressive tomb of plastered stone covered with a dome of blue tiles. Octagonal externally but square within, the ceiling of this tomb is intricately decorated with painted and incised plaster. It has a high neck the usual double dome is absent, which makes it a unique construction for this period.

Nai Ka Gumbad, the tomb of Humayun’s barber, is another impressive square tomb with a double-dome built in the same complex.

Humayun’s Tomb is an impressive monument and a masterpiece of Indo- Islamic culture.


Elephanta Caves

The Elephanta caves are situated at the Elephanta islands in India, at a distance of 11-km from Mumbai and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The island of Elephanta was a commercial, military and religious center for centuries and has traces of early Buddhist culture. The Elephanta caves date back to the period between 9th – 12th centuries.

The entire cave temple complex covers an area of about 60, 000 square feet. It is known as The World of Lord Shiva. It is at this place where the main events in the mythology of Lord Shiva are powerfully depicted. The temples in the Elephanta caves and the carvings on the walls show Shiva in different moods and poses.

It is an exquisite example of rock-cut artistry. There are seven cave excavations in the Elephanta group of caves. The entire cave temple complex covers an area of about 60000 square feet and consists of a main chamber and two lateral ones. It also has courtyards and several subsidiary shrines. A mass of natural rock lies above the temple.

The most magnificent aspect of the caves is the enigmatic image of Trimurthi Sadasiva carved in relief at the end of the north south axis of the temple. This colossal 20 feet high image of the three-headed Shiva, Trimurthi is breathtaking and is considered a masterpiece of Indian art. The caves are filled with intricate and detailed carvings. Some of them depict the fabled legends and mythical stories.

The Mahesh Murti cave has special importance because it has the magnificent Trimurthi Sadasiva that stand at a height of about 20 ft and also known as Panchmukhi Shiva. Three faces Panchamukha Shiva are carved into the wall of the northern entrance. Here Shiva is portrayed in the Shiva lingam or phallus form.

To the east of the main temple, there is a courtyard, and the secondary shrine. This temple contains six pillars at its entrance, four of which are free standing. The entrance leads to a hall decorated with sculptured panels depicting legends from the Shiva Purana. Nothing has disturbed the sublime beauty of this place for centuries although many of the sculptures were destroyed by the Protégées rulers who vandalized the place.

Elephanta caves are the ultimate place to get an insight of religious and cultural aspects of India. Here the Indian art has found an expression in stones and is a great visual treat.
It leaves one wondering about the creative and artistic energy of those unknown artisans who brought life into the rocks around here.


Konark Sun Temple

The magnificent Konark Sun Temple is located in the state of Orissa near the sacred city of Puri. It is dedicated to the sun God or Surya and is a masterpiece of Orissa’s medieval architecture.

This temple was built in the thirteenth century by the King Narasimha Deva. It is considered as one of the grandest temples of India and is often referred to as the Black Pagoda. The ruins of this temple were excavated only in late 19th century.

Konark derives its name from Konark, the presiding deity of the Sun Temple. It is actually a combination of two words, Kona (corner) and Arka (sun), which, when combined, means the sun of the corner.

The massive structure of the temple, now in ruins, sits in solitary splendor of drifting sands. The entire temple was designed in the shape of a chariot with 24 wheels, each about 10 feet in diameter, with a set of spokes and elaborate carvings carrying the Sun God across the heavens. Seven horses drag the temple. Two lions guard the entrance, crushing elephants.

The huge intricate wheels of the chariot carved around the base of the temple are the major attractions of the temple. Shadows formed by these can give the precise time of the day. There are carved erotic human figures on the temples walls. The pyramidal roof of the temple is made of sandstone and soars over 30 m in height.

The sun temple is a world heritage site as and is no doubt world’s most beautiful temple buildings.