Sunday, 19 May 2019

Bibi ka Maqbara- Taj of the Deccan

Of the numerous places that we visited while in Aurangabad, Bibi ka Maqbara was last in our list (as S is not fond of visiting tombs). I solely wanted to visit the place because if its' name as 'Mini Tajmahal'. As I have not visited Taj Mahal, I did not compare this structure with the masterpiece so I must say it is a lovely stand- alone monument. 

View of the garden and fountains from the raised platform...

Popularly known as Taj of the Deccan, the construction of the tomb was commissioned by Aurangzeb for his beloved wife Dilarus Banu Begum. He wanted to replicate the Taj Mahal of Agra built by his father Shah Jahan but being stingy, he agreed to sanction only Rs.7 lakh that makes it to be a poor copy of the Taj. Though commissioned by Aurangzeb, it was his son- Azam Shah who completed the mausoleum in 1668.

We had reached the Bibi ka Maqbara premises (located in Begumpura) early in the morning to avoid the crowd (also we were heading back to Hyderabad in the afternoon). The entrance reminded me of tomb structure- Chaukhandi that I had seen in Bidar. Soon after the entrance, there is a very intricately decorated ceiling and leaf motifs on brass door. The Mughal styled gardens and fountains welcomed us as we approached the main tomb complex which is built on a square platform with four minarets in each corner. 

Motifs on the entrance door and decorated ceiling at the entrance...

Jaali work

The grave is placed below the ground with octagonal jali work surrounding it. Intricate lattice and stucco work can be seen around the main mausoleum. We could not spend much time as we were short of time so only took a few photographs before leaving. 

Stucco work...

Arches...mosque next to the tomb

Friday, 1 March 2019

Ellora Caves: Part II

Ellora caves are probably one of the largest rock-cut cave temples in the world dating from 600-1000 CE period. This post is exclusively dedicated to the 12 Buddhist caves found in Ellora. Read about the 17 Hindu Cave Temples in my earlier post here.

Moving from the magnanimous Kailasa temple, we had reached the Buddhist caves: Cave No. 12 being our first Buddhist cave to be visited thus. Cave No. 12 gave the impression of a three- storied (known as Teen Tal) dormitory with square-cut pillars on each floor. Unless one enters and peers into all the corners, it is difficult to find the way to get to the next floor. The Buddhist caves were simpler than the Hindu temples. They consisted of both Chaityas and Viharas. Chaitya was a rectangular prayer hall with a 'stupa' placed at the center. Viharas were the residences of monks. Cave 11 and 12 were the last ones to be built among the Buddhist caves; they depict Bodhisattva related iconography.

Cave No. 12

View form the third floor...

Cave no. 10 is one of the most important caves among the Buddhiat caves. Known as the Visvakarma Cave (one who accomplishes all) , this cave has one of the largest (15 foot) seated figures of Buddha. It is a chaitya hall which is also known as 'Carpenter's Cave' as the rock has been given a finishing of wooden beams. These give the impression of ribs of a creature. I made all efforts to click the most cliched images of the Buddha statue that I had come across whenever I had read about it. The hall has octagonal columns at the end of which is Buddha sitting in Vyakhyana Mudra (teaching pose).

Cave No. 10

Buddha in Vyakhyana Mudra

A playful squirrel kept us busy for a while outside Cave 10. having tasted ground nuts given by us, it kept following us and insisted for more.

A Vihara...

As we moved further, we were more awestruck by the backdrop against which these caves stood: the monsoon green hillocks through which little glistening waterfalls fell right in front of the caves. It added another dimension to the way we peered at the statues.

After completing the crucial caves of the Buddhist era, we had headed towards the main entrance where we would be taken in a bus to visit the Jain temples. 

Sunday, 17 February 2019

For the love of Flamingos

I have never been a keen bird- watcher. When I do get a chance I never miss an opportunity to capture theme in my camera.
As an exception, I always wanted to watch Pink Flamingos in their natural habitat.
Never had I thought I would see one, other than in a bird sanctuary, than I had stumbled upon an Instagram feed that posted pictures of Greater Flamingos that had migrated from the land of Kutch to one of the driest cities in North Karnataka- Raichur.
Hard to believe but many lakes and tanks located in the outskirts of Raichur get numerous species of migratory birds between the months of November to April/May.
Greater Flamingos an be spotted between January to May after which they go back to Kutch for breeding.

Fields on the way to Raichur...

First glimpse of the lake

One such lake in the outskirts of Raichur (between Raichur- Hyderabad highway) is the Manchalapura Lake in the village of Manchalapura.
Though our Google road map pointed towards the village, even before we could reach our destination we (my best partners in all trips- hubby and daughter) spotted the pink beauties (not all were pink though) and realized that no other spot could be as closer as the place we were in. In an instant we were out of the car and were walking through dried up part of the lake.

After few minutes we were on our senses to realize not all parts where we were walking was dry. At places it was still swampy. We had suddenly stopped walking as we were unsure of the water levels. It was nicely camouflaged under the grass. We finally stationed ourselves at a safe spot from where we could enjoy the flock of flamingos.


A closer look of the Flamingos

It was not a surprise why these birds could have chosen the lake as their home for few months. Not a single soul to be seen around the lake! We three were the only insane people who had driven 200 kms just to get glimpse of these birds.

Black-winged Stilt

Black Drongo

After spending more than an hour near the lake, we headed towards the actual Manchalapura village hoping to find more birds. But it was a vain effort as it was difficult to get near the lake through that route. As usual, our hungry stomachs had started rumbling pushing towards a local restaurant- Halli Oota that served authentic Jowari rotis and North Karnataka styled pooran polis. Gorging on the scrumptious food we had headed back to Hyderabad finding on the way few more varieties of birds, tasted some very sweet local watermelons and a palm tree full of weaver bird nests.

Green Bee-Eater

Interesting interiors of the Halli Oota Restaurant

Weaver bird nests

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Daulatabad Fort

Daulatabad, once known as Devagiri or Deogiri is located at around 15 kms from the city of Aurangabad. It lies on the way to the famous Ellora caves. Driving through the foot of the fort to Ellora caves, we had made a mental note to visit that place on our way back.

However, the delay in arrival to the fort in the evening and our tiredness (after much walking exploring Ellora caves) had left us with little enthusiasm to explore the fort that was considered as an 'invincible fort' in earlier days. Nevertheless, we had decided to visit the place. 

The topmost part of fort seen on our way to Ellor caves...

Rising above a conical shaped hill at a height of about 600 feet, this 'Hill of Gods' was built by Bhillama V of the Yadava dynasty in 1187. The hill is shaped like a smooth tortoise's back. In 14th century Muhammad Bin Tugluq of Delhi Sultanate renamed it as Daulatabad (abode of wealth) and shifted the entire capital from Delhi to Daulatabad. Ironically, his administration failed miserably due to shortage of water and various other reasons and lost his wealth. He thus re- shifted the entire population to Delhi which gained him the title of a 'mad king'.

We had reached the entrance of the fort almost during closing time which had left us with little time to trek through the entire fort and reach the top. Thus, we had walked past through many important spots without stopping much or stopping just to click a few pictures and not going through the history part of it.

Canons placed at the entrance...

Walkway leading to Chand Minar and other parts of the fort...

The fort has only one entrance/ exit. This was done deliberately to confuse the enemy soldiers. The wooden entrance gate is studded with pointed spikes to wound the elephants that the enemies used to break open the gates. As we had entered the main gate, we had come across a vast courtyard that housed several canons of different sizes. Walking past few watchtowers and curved paths, we reached a stoned path which reminded us of the Golconda fort in Hyderabad. This is where the famous Chand Minar of the fort became visible.

Chand Minar was built by Bahamani king Hasan Gangu Bahamani, also known as Alauddin Bahaman Shah in 1358. He built the Chand Minar as a replica of the Qutb Minar in Delhi. He employed architects from Iran who used Lapis Lazuli and Red Ochre to colour the Minar. As we had passed through various passages to reach the top of the hill, we had realized that Chand Minar was visible from almost all corners and directions.

Another view of Chand Minar...

Chini Mahal...

Menda Canon...

A move through some more passages had led us to Chini Mahal, the royal prison built by Aurangzeb. Abul Hasan Tana Shah of Qutb Shahi dynasty of Hyderabad was kept as a prisoner in this royal prison. At a later period Shivaji's son Sambhaji maharaj too was kept in the same prison. A massive canon called the Menda Canon made of metal sits above Chini Mahal with Aurangzeb's name inscribed on it. 

Though the number of visitors to the fort were limited during that hour, many of them present were local youths simply vandalizing and throwing plastic bottles into the trench that lay ahead of Chini Mahal. An elderly couple who were the guards were trying relentlessly to stop them from dirtying the place. The wide trench that led to the top most part of the fort had to be crossed over by an iron bridge (it was made of leather in earlier days). The moat would be filled with water and crocodiles were left in the water to act as barriers to enemy attacks. The end of bridge would lead one to Bhool Bhulaiya or the Maze. A descend of small steps was built to look like a tunnel leading towards passageways to confuse the enemy soldiers. The pathways has windows where the soldiers hid themselves and poured hot oil to attack the enemies. 

Trench below the bridge...

We did not reach up to the top point i.e. Baradari as time did not permit us. We had skipped the Bharat Mata temple and few other important parts as well. Heading back, we were fortunate to witness the setting sun against the Chand Minar indicating a perfect end for the day. 

Bibi ka Maqbara- Taj of the Deccan

Of the numerous places that we visited while in Aurangabad, Bibi ka Maqbara was last in our list (as S is not fond of visiting tombs). I so...