Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2017

Discovering Marine Life at Girgaum Chowpatty, Mumbai

Mumbai’s beaches . The first word that comes to mind when we think of them, sadly, is ‘filth’. Over the years, we have so got used to seeing our beaches in a mess, that we rarely give a thought to the marine life teeming there. Our eyes were opened to the incredible marine bio-diversity of Girgaum Chowpatty, (more popularly called Chowpatty Beach), when we recently went on a walk with Marine Life of Mumbai and INatureWatch Foundation . Over the last few weeks, I have racked my mind about what to write about our experience, but I have finally decided to cut out the words, and show you instead, through my photographs, the incredible life that manages to survive despite all odds…. Shells are everywhere , which is not surprising. But what is surprising is the fact that each of them, small and big, have creatures within them – the molluscs whose natural homes these are, as well as hermit crabs , which occupy them once they are abandoned.  Hermit crab in spiral shell

Paintings at the Pundrikji-ki-Haveli, Jaipur

I first read about Pundrikji-ki-Haveli on the ASI Jaipur circle website. It is said to be the home of Pandit Ratnakar Bhatt, the royal purohit (priest and advisor) at the court of Maharaj Sawai Jai Singh II, the founder of Jaipur. As the story goes, the pandit, originally from Maharashtra, was studying Astrology and Tantra Vidya at Kashi, where he met the King of Jaipur. Impressed with his knowledge, the king brought him back to Jaipur, making him the royal purohit . He was also given the title of “Pundrik”, probably an association with the town of Pandharpur (where he might have hailed from). The king, it is said, built him a Haveli, which came to be known as Pundrikji-ki-Haveli. The Haveli has some excellent examples of paintings, of the Jaipur style, prevalent during the 18 th century. Our visit to the Haveli is a long story.

The Temple of Neelkanth at Alwar, Rajasthan

Deep inside the Sariska Tiger Reserve , a narrow road led us to the foothills of a mountain. There, it abruptly stopped, and we wondered how we were expected to go on. Our driver looked at me accusingly, surely blaming me for getting us all lost, in search of a temple he hadn’t heard of. Just then, a local on a bike appeared, hurtling out of nowhere. Seeing us, apparently lost, he stopped, and we asked for directions. He simply pointed to the mountain, and said the temple was up there. I was aghast, at the thought of climbing the mountain, in the heat. But then he pointed to a rough path ahead, and told us to follow it. We stared at the path, if we could call it that, in dismay. But having come this far, we didn’t want to return without trying our best. And by now, our driver had discovered his adventurous side. Metaphorically gearing up his loins, he got in, and assured us he could get us up the mountain. The next hour was a trial for our nerves, as the rocky path took us higher, an

Experiencing the Wild at Kanha National Park

Summer is when I travel . This year, our #Summertrip was shorter than usual, and now, back in sweltering Mumbai, my thoughts are still in the gorgeous wilderness of Kanha National Park, where the sun’s heat didn’t bother us. Indeed, on our early morning jaunts into the forest, we found ourselves shivering. While Samhith huddled into the sole jacket he carried, I wrapped myself tighter into my dupatta which doubled up as a shawl… till the sun came up, of course. And then we basked in its welcome warmth, till it grew too hot, and it was time to leave. A few hours break, and then we were back in the jungle, enjoying the play of sunlight and shadows among the trees and the tall grasses, till it grew too dark to see anything more. Wandering almost all day amidst the towering Sal trees, spotting the elusive tiger hidden in the grass, barely a few feet away; as peacocks danced, enticing their mates, and jackals roamed, searching for prey; as vultures perched on trees, within sight of decay

Abhaneri - The once radiant city

From the outside, the structure looked unimpressive. A couple of old men were seated on a table, there was no ticket counter, and above all, no visitors. “Are we in the right place?” was the question foremost on our mind. Our hesitation must have been obvious, for one of the old men walked up to us. “Come in, Come in!” he exclaimed. “Would you like a guided tour?” That was reassuring, and we were quick to accept. Following him through a pillared pavilion, we entered into what appeared to be another world! The distinctive steps, descending into the earth, told us we were where we wanted to be – at the Chand Baori, Abhaneri. A panoramic view of the Chand Baori, Abhaneri

My Narendra Bhawan Experience

From the outside, it appears to be a Haveli. The traditional architecture, with red sandstone, is seen all over Bikaner. It is only when we step in, that we realise that there is more to Narendra Bhawan than meets the eye! Narendra Bhawan

The Royal Legacy of Bikaner

The story of Bikaner often starts with the disagreement between Rao Jodha of Jodhpur and his sixth son, Rao Bika. A stray comment by his father led him to the wild land ruled by the Jats, overcome them, and set up a new kingdom. The story is filled with emotions, replete with drama, politics and intrigue. However, there is another story as well – the story of Bikaner, seen over 500 years, through its art and architecture.  

The Havelis of Bikaner - A Photo Post

The lanes are narrow , twisting and turning amidst buildings old and new. Crumbling old structures with intricate workmanship stand side by side with art deco buildings, and more modern constructions, which follow no particular style. Autos, bicycles, motorcycles and vans rush past, blowing their horns as loudly as possible, while cows saunter past peacefully, completely unaffected by the noise. In the midst of all this chaos, children play by the side, and women go about their chores, as we explore these by-lanes of Bikaner, and its beautiful Havelis. Facade of one of the Rampuria Havelis

Temples of Bikaner - Part 4: The Laleshwar Mahadev Temple (Shivbari)

The massive walls completely shield the temple from view, and it first appears to be a fort or a citadel. Even when we enter the gate, the central structure doesn’t conform to our ideas of what a temple should look like. Built on a high platform, with an open pillared hall, topped by domed chhatris, the temple of Laleshwar Mahadev, locally called Shivbari, seems to be a blend of architectural styles. The Laleshwar Mahadev Temple

Temples of Bikaner - Part 3: Laxmi Nath Temple

The temple resounds with bhajans, sung of Meera and Krishna. Devotees enter, and settle down in any available space, and join in the singing, enthusiastically. It’s evident that everyone knows the words. There are no queues, but there is a sense of order. No one is in a hurry. They wait patiently for others to have darshan before getting up for a closer look at the Lord. The temple is small, but beautiful, with intricate paintings on the ceiling. There is no space to stand and admire, so I sit down, along with everyone else, and allow my eyes to wander over the ceiling, rather than the image in the sanctum.

Temples of Bikaner – Part 2: Bhanda Shaha (or Bhandasar) Jain Temple

At first glance , it appears to be just another Jain temple - Which goes to show how deceptive first appearances can be! Because the Bhandasar Jain temple is one of the most stunning temples I have ever seen!

Temples of Bikaner - Part 1 : The Karni Mata Temple

Temples are more than just places of worship . They are monuments which speak of the people who built them, and those who came to worship in them, their beliefs, and their faith.  Like any other city in India, Bikaner too has its share of temples, each of which has its own story, its own importance, and its own place, in the social structure of the city. During my recent visit to Bikaner with Narendra Bhawan, I visited four temples, which are inextricably linked to Bikaner, and its growth. I am starting the series today, with what is probably the most famous temple in Bikaner – the Karni Mata Temple . Main entrance of the Karni Mata Temple

Kanheri - Stories in Stone

The caves at Kanheri are awe-inspiring . To begin with, there are over a hundred, spread over three hills! Then, there is the fact that they were in use for over a millennium! Add to this the wonderful art in the caves which still remains, after centuries of neglect. Taken together, Kanheri is a fascinating place, one that makes us want to delve further into its history and its stories. An inscription from Cave 3, Kanheri

The Art of Kanheri

The stories of Kanheri are spread over time and space. They begin somewhere in the 1 st century B.C.E., when the first monks passed by, and stayed in caverns hidden in these hills. Then came others, who excavated these caves, to live in, to study, and to promote their religion, to discuss their beliefs. Time passed, and as the social and political scene changed, Kanheri changed too. The caves spread over three hills, then satellite settlements began, and patrons came from far and wide. Inscriptions talk of donors who came all the way from Central Asia, the North East Frontier region and Eastern India. Along them came their influences, which are seen in the art of Kanheri. A Stupa in Cave 36, with remnants of paintings on the ceiling

Kanheri - First Impressions

I stood at the foot of the steps , looking up at the mountain. The caves carved into it centuries ago were just visible, and, for the umpteenth time that morning, I reflected on the irony, that I had grown up almost right under the shadow of these mountains, yet it had taken me so many years to actually come here. My mother’s refrain “There’s a time for everything” constantly echoed in my head, as I followed the others up the flight of steps which would lead us to the Kanheri Caves. I was glad, at least, that though delayed, I was visiting the caves to attend a three day site seminar by Dr. Suraj Pandit, one of the foremost experts on Kanheri.